Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

SPM: Bruker Dimension Icon

Main content start


Scanning probe microscopy (SPM) describes a family of measurement methods that utilize a small physical probe, rather than a beam of light or electrons, to scan the surface of the sample. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a subgroup of the SPM family, as it relies on long range attractive or short range repulsive interactions between the atoms in the tip and the atoms on the specimen to detect the sample surface. This allows for accurate 3-dimensional mapping with sub-nanometer XYZ resolution, but also opens doors to a variety of other investigations that can benefit from direct, and controlled, physical contact between a nanoscale tip and the sample.

Bruker Dimension Icon is considered the global standard for a high end atomic force microscope, widely utilized in both academic research and industrial production settings. It is a large sample, tip-scanning system equipped with acoustic and vibration isolation, allowing for high stability and precision during measurements. The intuitive software, which includes partial parameter automation (ScanAsyst™), helps beginner users quickly become accustomed to the instrument, while the 8 inch wafer chuck provides ample space for a variety of sample shapes and sizes. In addition, the instrument is equipped with several optional packages that allow for mechanical property mapping (Modulus, adhesion, etc.; PeakForce QNM™), conductivity mapping (PeakForce TUNA™), and Kelvin Probe measurements (work function, surface potential; PeakForce KPFM™).

Select options and specifications:

  • 8 inch wafer vacuum chuck, capable of holding a variety of sample shapes and sizes up to 15mm thick
  • 90um x 90um x 12um XYZ closed loop scanner with less than 15pm (!) Z noise
  • Vibration/acoustic isolation enclosure
  • ScanAsyst topography mode with automatic parameter adjustment
  • PeakForce QNM for fast nanomechanical mapping
  • PeakForce TUNA for conductive AFM combined with nanomechanical mapping
  • PeakForce KPFM suite, allowing for variety of KPFM measurement, including amplitude modulated (AM), frequency modulated (FM), and high voltage (HV), in combination with PeakForce or Tapping imaging modes
  • Traditional suite of standard imaging modes, including Contact, Tapping (aka. Non-contact), LFM, PFM, MFM/EFM, etc.

Research Examples

Carbon Nanotubes on Quartz – Marcin Walkiewicz (sample courtesy of Gregory Pitner)
Greyscale lithography pattern – Marcin Walkiewicz (sample courtesy of Tom Carver)
Polystyrene – Low Density Polyethylene blend (PS-LDPE) – Marcin Walkiewicz. Left: few LDPE droplets on PS surface. Right: close up image of the LDPE polymer

Getting Started and Training Information

In order to become a qualified user on the Bruker Dimension Icon, you need to follow each of these steps in the order as listed here:

  1. Complete the process to become a lab member of SNSF and follow the instructions to activate a Badger account.
  2. Access the online training by clicking here. Select the Scanning Probe & Atomic Force Microscopy icon at the bottom of the screen. Complete the Theory, Practical, and Assessments tabs of the online training module. Save the “Virtual SPM” image from the Practical tab and “Test Results” from the Assessments tab for the new user intake form.
  3. Complete the SPM New User Intake Form.

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.