Asylum Research



Automated Operation for Tapping Mode Imaging in Air

GetStarted™ is a new software feature available exclusively on Asylum Research MFP-3D Infinity™ and Cypher™ AFMs that automatically determines the optimal tapping mode imaging parameters for simple, high-quality imaging in air. Because it uses tapping mode – which has been the “gold standard” AFM imaging mode for over two decades – it allows for high resolution, gentle imaging. GetStarted even works with the small cantilevers that are used for fast scanning with Asylum’s Cypher – the world’s highest resolution fast scanning AFM. GetStarted is unique in that it uses a predictive algorithm to calculate the best imaging parameters before ever engaging, so you start getting a great image from the first scan line without putting your tip or sample at risk.

  • GetStarted automatically sets tapping mode imaging parameters (setpoint, gain, scan rate).

  • Uses normal tapping mode, the gold standard for AFM imaging – instead of some new, unproven mode.

  • GetStarted’s predictive algorithm produces high quality data from the very first scan line, unlike iterative optimization approaches that can put your tip and sample at risk as they start with sub-optimal parameters.




The simplest way to get great, reproducible images

GetStarted does exactly as its name suggests. All you need to do is tell the software a little bit about your sample and which AFM probe that you are using. GetStarted does the rest. First, it prompts you through loading a probe and adjusting the laser and detector. Next, it automatically tunes and calibrates the cantilever using Asylum’s exclusive GetReal™ feature. Before engaging your tip on the sample, GetStarted calculates and sets your tapping mode imaging parameters for you, ensuring that you engage with the best gain, scan rate, and setpoint for your experiment and probe.

  • Automatically tunes the cantilever, selects the setpoint, determines the scan rate, and calculates the imaging gain based on quantitative information about your experiment and probe.

  • All you need to do is select a scan size and estimate the order of magnitude sample roughness (i.e. nanometers, tens of nanometers, hundred of nanometers).

  • Because GetStarted quantitatively sets the parameters systematically based on some measured properties of the cantilever, it can better reproduce imaging conditions between experiments compared to simply adjusting scan parameters by eye.



All of the Advantages of Tapping Mode Imaging

Tapping mode (AC Mode) is the most widely used AFM imaging technique because it offers many advantages over the alternatives. Tapping mode is also at the heart of several different imaging modes used in AFM, and as a result has been the AFM community’s “go to” mode for decades. Historically, tapping mode’s weakness was that it has been difficult to automate, which has forced other manufacturers to abandon tapping mode for new, unproven techniques. Until now. GetStarted maintains all of the technical advantages of tapping mode, while adding a new one – ease of use.

  • Tapping mode can be the gentlest AFM imaging mode, allowing it to not only protect soft samples but also protect the sharp-but-delicate AFM tip.

  • Tapping mode is the basis for many advanced imaging techniques, including electrical (electrostatic forces and surface potential), magnetic (magnetic force microscopy), and mechanical (loss tangent imaging and AM-FM Viscoelastic Mapping Mode) – GetStarted can get you started for all of these.

  • GetStarted is designed around using tapping mode, unlike other automation techniques that have to implement new, unproven modes.

  • Tapping mode uses readily-available conventional AFM probes, not new, expensive special probes.



High Quality Imaging From the Very First Scan Line

GetStarted is unique because it uses an exclusive, patent-pending predictive algorithm to calculate the optimal imaging parameters based on some information you provide about the sample and on some quantitative measurements it takes on the cantilever. This is important, because other image optimization techniques start scanning the sample and then start to optimize the image during the scan until it “looks good”. When you use this approach the first data you collect are useless, and you can easily damage your tip or sample during the optimization process. Further, the optimization process is not based on any systematic, quantitative measurements of your experimental set up. GetStarted begins with the optimal parameters before you even touch the sample.

  • GetStarted starts getting high quality data from the first scan line so you can capture your final image faster – there’s no waiting for optimization and throwing away half an image of poor scan lines.

  • Unlike other methods, GetStarted ensures that the imaging feedback is set for optimal tracking even before the tip touches the sample, protecting it from damage.

  • GetStarted is completely stable and captures a full image with consistent imaging parameters, rather than adjusting parameters on the fly and producing an image that has completely different starting conditions (and results) from start to finish.



How it Works

Advances by Asylum Research in the theoretical understanding of tapping mode imaging have made it possible to predict the optimal amplitude setpoint, scan rate and imaging gain based on a few simple inputs. It is another great example of technology leadership by Asylum Research.

  • GetStarted first uses GetReal to calibrate the cantilever sensitivity and spring constant as well as measure the cantilevers resonant frequency and quality factor for each probe.

  • In concert with the GetReal measured cantilever properties, GetStarted uses your input of an order of magnitude estimate of sample roughness and your desired scan settings to calculate the optimal amplitude, amplitude setpoint, scan rate, and imaging gain for your selected sample and probe.

  • Imaging is as easy as 1-2-3:
    1. Enter the scan size and resolution you want
    2. Estimate your sample roughness
    3. Indicate the lever that you are using

GetStarted will walk you through the rest of the routine then automatically set your free amplitude, setpoint, integral gain, and scan rate before you start imaging your sample. It's that simple. You get optimized imaging from the very first scan line as show in the DNA image below.



How do I get it?

GetStarted is available free-of-charge for all MFP-Infinity and Cypher customers. GetStarted is included with every new MFP-3D Infinity and Cypher AFM. If you already have one of these AFMs we welcome you to download the latest software and use it too- it is included in the latest update. Not only will you get GetStarted, you will get Asylum’s latest software and other enhanced features with a quick, free software update, so you can get started right away.




Download GetStarted Datasheet (2.4 MB)




Thin polymer film of polystyrene with polycaprolactone domains, 20 µm scan.






DNA adsorbed onto mica, imaged in air, 2 µm scan.





MDMO-PPV:PCBM polymer/fullerene solar cell, phase data on 3D topography, 2 µm scan. Image courtesy of P. Cox, M. Glaz, S. Vorpahl, D. Ginger, University of Washington.





265 nm-tall titanium structures patterned on silicon, 20 µm scan.





Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) rough sectioned with a razor blade, 20 µm scan.


Oxford Instruments Asylum Research, Inc. • 6310 Hollister Ave. • Santa Barbara, CA  93117 •