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Technical services for industry

Surface analysis with atomic force microssopy (AFM)

Non-destructive surface characterization measures of thin films at the micro or nanometric scale are necessary for the morphology study and for advanced determinations with nanometric resolution.

To study these properties traditional methods based on optical microscopy have limitations in lateral resolution. Electronic microscopy doesn't allow the quantitative characterization of the sample topography, and needs conductive samples to obtain a good surface image.

AFM is a routine characterization tool to study the topography and a practical method to characterize a  wide range of physical properties.

With AFM we can obtain the quantitative tridimensional topographic profile of the surface, the study of its mechanical properties and discern between surfaces with different mechanical properties. Furthermore, the technique allows air and liquid measures in a wide range of temperatures (up to 250 ºC).

This technique can be a useful tool in the characterization of polymer with technical interest as polyester PEN (for photovoltaic cells), malic acid polyester (biopolymers) or classical polymers as polypropiylene (packaging industry)or in matrix-polymer adhesion studies (Si-PEN), among others. It is used fro a lot of materials like metals, oxides, ceramics, biological samples, superconductors, among others.

Determination of the topography of a material at the nanometric scale. 

We can study the surface of samples up to 3X3 cm and 2 cm thick. With this topographic characterization we can verify if a surface treatment or the exposure to certain conditions affect the surface morphology of a material. We can study coatings over metals, polymers, etc. 

Determination of the electrical properties of the surface of a material: PFM Mode  (Piezoresponse force microscopy) and DPFM (Direct Piezoelectric Force Microscopy.

This technique allows us to determine the ferroelectric and piezoelectric properties of different materials, and the visualization with high resolution of domains with that properties. DPFM method is, also, quantitative. This is an exclusive ICMAB service and its based in an internal development.

Photoconductivity measure. PC-AFM mode

It is used to study solar cells, where the active layer is exposed to the air. with this analysis we can obtain the distribution of the photocurrent and guess the parts of the cell with a higher efficiency. 

Determination of the work function, Kelvin mode. Surface potential microscopy.

The map of the work function gives information about the composition and the electronic state of the local structures in the surface of a solid comparing the sample with a reference substrate.

These maps are related with many surface Characteristics, including catalytic activity , corrosion, and the characterization of dielectric and semiconducting materials.

Determination of the magnetic structure. MFM mode

MFM mode detects the magnetic interactions of the sample with a tip and it's used to measure different  types of magnetic interactions, including the dipole-dipole magnetic interaction.

Determination of the thermic properties of the surface of materials.

The 3 Omega method can measure the thermal  properties of a sample with a tip that measures temperature as well.