Asylum Research


AFM for Thin Films and Coatings

AFM is a powerful tool for the characterization of thin films and coatings. This category covers a wide range of materials, including ceramics, metals, oxides, and polymers. These thin films and coatings are used for many applications and formed by many different processes. The information that AFM can provide is widely useful for helping to develop, optimize, and monitor the deposition process and to understand the relationship between the desired functional properties of the film/coating and AFM observables.

Common thin film and coating properties measured using AFM:

  • Surface roughness, uniformity, and morphology
  • Mechanical properties, hardness, and wear
  • Conductivity, permittivity, stored charge, and other electrical properties
  • Piezoelectric / electromechanical response
  • Magnetic properties
  • Thermal properties

Examples of thin film and coating applications:

  • Batteries and energy storage
  • Biocompatibility
  • Corrosion and antifouling
  • Data storage
  • Optics
  • Photovoltaics
  • Semiconductor and microelectronic industries
  • Sensors and actuators including MEMS (microelectromechanical systems)
  • Tribology (hardness, lubrication, and wear)

Typical thin film deposition processes:

  • ALD (atomic layer deposition)
  • CVD (chemical vapor deposition)
  • MBE (molecular beam epitaxy)
  • PLD (pulsed laser deposition)
  • PVD (physical vapor deposition)
  • Self assembly
  • Sputtering
  • Spin casting
  • Thermal evaporation



Download the Application Note (3 MB)


Topography image shown in 3D of crystalline domains in a non-planar phthalocyanine film grown on a highly oriented pyrolytic graphite substrate. Phthalocyanine is of interest for potential applications as an organic semiconductor, 25 µm scan. Image courtesy of Luke Rochford, University of Warwick.


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