What is AFM-IR?

AFM-IR is an analytical technique that can produce extremely high-resolution images of a sample surface, and it is commonly used to identify unknown substances by nanoscale chemical characterization. AFM-IR, its full name being atomic force microscope-infrared spectroscopy, is carried out using atomic force microscopy and infrared spectroscopy. Throughout this post, we will look in detail at what AFM-IR is and what applications it can be used in.

AFM-IR: Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)

Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) is a scanning probe microscopy (SPM) method used to analyse a material’s surface at an atomic level. When analyzing via the AFM method, a mechanical probe is used to magnify surface properties by up to 100,000,000 times. Typical properties measured include friction, height and magnetism, all measured in a nanometer- a highly accurate and effective measurement format.

AFM-IR: Infrared Spectroscopy (IR or IR Spectroscopy)

Infrared spectroscopy is a method that analyzes how infrared light interacts with a molecule by pushing infrared radiation over the molecule at different frequencies. As this happens, three key aspects are measured: IR absorption, emission and reflection.

IR is used in chemistry to determine what functional groups are present in the tested molecules. This is made possible by exposing an unknown substance to infrared radiation, an action which excites certain chemical groups and allows scientists to identify them.

Why Do We Use AFM-IR?

The AFM-IR technique was developed because both infrared spectroscopy and infrared microscopy can only produce clear images up to a certain standard. However, atomic force microscopy can operate at a nanoscale spatial resolution; therefore, combining the two techniques offers a higher accuracy when mapping unknown substances as it allows scientists to analyze molecules on a far smaller scale than infrared-only methods.

Due to the cross-over between spectroscopy and microscopy, AFM-IR imaging is used for a range of specialized applications between the previously mentioned techniques. Some of these applications include:

  • Measuring bacterial and animal cells
  • Microbiology
  • Polymer development and research
  • Protein research
  • Studying cellular interactions

The Benefits of Using AFM-IR

As we have briefly mentioned, AFM-IR provides a wide range of benefits in the world of chemical imaging. In this section, we will look more closely at the advantages of using AFM-IR.

  • Accurate IR Spectra Acquisition: AFM-IR acquires IR spectra with a spatial resolution on the 10 to 100 nm scale.
  • Fine Spatial Recognition: This allows for highly accurate and in-depth imaging when analyzing a sample, enabling detailed chemical analysis and accurate absorption maps.
  • Imaging: Can be used for both chemical and morphological imagining.
  • Non-destructive: The AFM-IR technique will not damage samples being tested.
  • Versatile: AFM-IR can be used to analyze a range of materials such as biological samples and organics (blends, composites and polymers).

If you would like more information about AFM-IR and how you could utilize it in your laboratory, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Did you know we also offer demonstrations? Get in touch to find out more.