Editor selections by Topic and Unit

The Physics Front is a free service provided by the AAPT in partnership with the NSF/NSDL.

Detail Page

Item Picture
published by the Imaging Technology Group
supported by the NASA and the National Science Foundation
This animated tutorial explores the basics of scanning probe microscopy (SPM), a branch of microscopy that forms images using a tiny physical probe to scan specimens. The advantage of SPM is that it can produce high resolution images of nanoscale samples and (unlike an electron microscope) does not require a partial vacuum. This tutorial provides beginners with a very clear picture of how the tiny tip moves across a sample surface to "see" atomic resolution and provide 3-dimensional feedback about its topography. The tutorial covers scanning tunneling, contact mode, and tapping mode. For additional background information on probe microscopy, we recommend: Introduction to AFM.

This resource is part of the Virtual Microscope project, which provides cost-free simulated scientific instrumentation for students and researchers worldwide as part of NASA's Virtual Laboratory initiative.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Editor's Note: SPM has been around only for 30 years, and has become a major tool for imaging samples as small as 6-10 nanometers. At the heart of scanning probe technology is the piezoelectric actuator, which controls the precision and accuracy of the tiny probe tip. This tutorial presents SPM with a simplicity that can be understood by high school students.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Technology
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electromotive Force and Current
= Piezoelectricity
General Physics
- Equipment
= Electronic Equipment
Modern Physics
- Atomic Physics
- Nanoscience
Other Sciences
- Engineering
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Upper Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Tutorial
- Audio/Visual
= Image/Image Set
= Movie/Animation
= Sound
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
  • Currently 0.0/5

Want to rate this material?
Login here!

Intended Users:
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2007 Imaging Technology Group
AFM animation, SPM animation, atomic force microscope, instrumentation, microscope tutorial, microscopy, microscopy tutorial, scanning probe microscope
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created February 11, 2013 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
February 17, 2013 by Caroline Hall

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1C. The Scientific Enterprise
  • 6-8: 1C/M6. Computers have become invaluable in science, mathematics, and technology because they speed up and extend people's ability to collect, store, compile, and analyze data; prepare research reports; and share data and ideas with investigators all over the world.

3. The Nature of Technology

3A. Technology and Science
  • 6-8: 3A/M2. Technology is essential to science for such purposes as access to outer space and other remote locations, sample collection and treatment, measurement, data collection and storage, computation, and communication of information.

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 6-8: 4D/M9. Materials vary in how they respond to electric currents, magnetic forces, and visible light or other electromagnetic waves.

8. The Designed World

8B. Materials and Manufacturing
  • 9-12: 8B/H4. Increased knowledge of the properties of particular molecular structures helps in the design and synthesis of new materials for special purposes.
  • 9-12: 8B/H6. Groups of atoms and molecules can form structures that can be measured in billionths of a meter. The properties of structures at this scale (known as the nanoscale) and materials composed of such structures, can be very different than the properties at the macroscopic scale because of the increase in the ratio of surface area to volume and changes in the relative strengths of different forces at different scales. Increased knowledge of the properties of materials at the nanoscale provides a basis for the development of new materials and new uses of existing materials.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Particles and Interactions and the Standard Model
Unit Title: Microscopy: Observing at the Nanoscale

Just what is a scanning probe microscope, and how does it use a tiny physical probe to "see" nanoscale specimens? This animated tutorial is a great way to explore the basics of SPM, which has become a very important tool for imaging samples as small as 10 nanometers.

Link to Unit:
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
(Imaging Technology Group, Urbana, 2007), WWW Document, (http://virtual.itg.uiuc.edu/training/AFM_tutorial/).
Virtual Microscope: Scanning Probe Microscopy Basics (Imaging Technology Group, Urbana, 2007), <http://virtual.itg.uiuc.edu/training/AFM_tutorial/>.
APA Format
Virtual Microscope: Scanning Probe Microscopy Basics. (2007). Retrieved July 22, 2024, from Imaging Technology Group: http://virtual.itg.uiuc.edu/training/AFM_tutorial/
Chicago Format
NASA, and National Science Foundation. Virtual Microscope: Scanning Probe Microscopy Basics. Urbana: Imaging Technology Group, 2007. http://virtual.itg.uiuc.edu/training/AFM_tutorial/ (accessed 22 July 2024).
MLA Format
Virtual Microscope: Scanning Probe Microscopy Basics. Urbana: Imaging Technology Group, 2007. NASA, and National Science Foundation. 22 July 2024 <http://virtual.itg.uiuc.edu/training/AFM_tutorial/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Virtual Microscope: Scanning Probe Microscopy Basics}, Publisher = {Imaging Technology Group}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {22 July 2024}, Year = {2007} }
Refer Export Format

%T Virtual Microscope: Scanning Probe Microscopy Basics %D 2007 %I Imaging Technology Group %C Urbana %U http://virtual.itg.uiuc.edu/training/AFM_tutorial/ %O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D 2007 %T Virtual Microscope: Scanning Probe Microscopy Basics %I Imaging Technology Group %V 2024 %N 22 July 2024 %9 application/flash %U http://virtual.itg.uiuc.edu/training/AFM_tutorial/

Disclaimer: ComPADRE offers citation styles as a guide only. We cannot offer interpretations about citations as this is an automated procedure. Please refer to the style manuals in the Citation Source Information area for clarifications.

Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

The Chicago Style presented is based on information from Examples of Chicago-Style Documentation.

The MLA Style presented is based on information from the MLA FAQ.

Virtual Microscope: Scanning Probe Microscopy Basics:

Is Part Of Virtual Microscope

Link to the main website of Virtual Microscope, which includes instructions for downloading the software for sharing datasets produced by the group's scanning and probing microscopes.

relation by Caroline Hall
Accompanies Virtual Microscope: Scanning Electron Microscopy Basics

A link to an animated tutorial on the structure and function of a Scanning Electron Microscope. Appropriate for high school and undergraduate education.

relation by Caroline Hall
Accompanies Virtual Microscope: Light Microscopy Basics

A highly detailed animated tutorial on light microscopy, including simple and compound microscope anatomy, polarized microscopy, darkfield, and fluorescent microscopy. Appropriate for AP physics or for a course in electricity and magnetism.

relation by Caroline Hall
Supplements TryEngineering: Be A Scanning Probe Microscope

This lesson suggests a physical model to help secondary students comprehend how a scanning probe microscope works to "read" the surface of nano-scale samples.

relation by Caroline Hall

Know of another related resource? Login to relate this resource to it.
Save to my folders



Related Materials

Similar Materials

Featured By

Physics Front
Dec 31 - Mar 15, 2017