Scanning Probe Microscope (SPM) Laboratory

Uses for SPM

Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM) generally refers to a set of surface characterization techniques that utilize micro-machined cantilever probes with sharp tips to scan the sample surface.  Since its inception in the 1980s, SPM has evolved into one of the most powerful tools for nanoscale measurement and imaging.  High resolution topographical surface characterization is perhaps the most common use of the SPM, but a wide range of advanced SPM modes are also available to study the electrical, magnetic, and mechanical properties of surfaces.  These include such techniques as Lateral Force Microscopy (LFM), Magnetic Force Microscopy (MFM), Electric Force Microscopy (EFM), Conductive Atomic Force Microscopy (I-AFM), Force Modulation Atomic Force Microscopy (FM-AFM), and phase imaging.  At any one time, the SPM lab has over 100 active users on campus from multiple departments and multi-disciplinary backgrounds.  Typical samples studied include metals, glasses and ceramics, polymers, biomaterials, and nanostructured materials for electronic applications (nanowires, nanodots, etc.). 

The Instruments

We have two Park Systems scanning probe microscopes, an XE-70 and an XE-100.  Unlike conventional tube scanner technology, the Park systems feature decoupled flexure-guided X, Y and Z scanners with zero background curvature.  The Z-servo response is also considerably higher than that of conventional tube scanners, thus enabling true Non-Contact mode.  The machine accommodates samples up to 100 mm in diameter and has a maximum scan size of 50 X 50 μm (5 X 5 μm in low-voltage mode).  The Z range is 12 μm (1.7 μm in low-voltage mode).  The XE-70 setup includes direct on-axis optics with manual Z focus stage.  Additionally, the XE-100 has automated Z control with the “Focus Follow” feature. 

The Park microscopes are situated on vibration isolation systems and within hermetically sealed acoustic enclosures to ensure a very low noise floor for high resolution imaging.  The XE-70 is dedicated to Non-Contact AFM mode, and Park-approved ACTA tips are provided.   The XE-100 can be utilized for a variety of specialized modes, including:

The XE-100 microscope also features a dynamic liquid cell for fluid imaging and a heating stage for controlled elevated temperature studies (up to 250 °C). 


Basic training for SPM requires one 2-hour group session followed by a second, one-on-one session, ideally with the trainee’s own sample.  Those interested in training should contact the SPM lab managers to make an appointment.  Additional training in specific SPM techniques will be available on as as-needed basis following completion of the basic training. Make sure you have completed the appropriate steps to becoming a Labmember. You will need a current Stanford Nano Shared Facilities - Access Authorization Form on file with Catherine Meng in Nano 105 (