Chemical force microscopy (CFM) is a variation of atomic force microscopy (AFM) which has become a versatile tool for characterization of materials surfaces. With AFM, structural morphology is probed using simple tapping or contact modes that utilize van der Waals interactions between tip and sample to maintain a constant probe deflection amplitude (constant force mode) or maintain height while measuring tip deflection (constant height mode). CFM, on the other hand, uses chemical interactions between functionalized probe tip and sample. Choice chemistry is typically gold-coated tip and surface with R-SH thiols attached, R being the functional groups of interest. CFM enables the ability to determine the chemical nature of surfaces, irrespective of their specific morphology, and facilitates studies of basic chemical bonding enthalpy and surface energy. Typically, CFM is limited by thermal vibrations within the cantilever holding the probe. This limits force measurement resolution to ~1 pN which is still very suitable considering weak COOH/CH3 interactions are ~20 pN per pair. Hydrophobicity is used as the primary example throughout this consideration of CFM, but certainly any type of bonding can be probed with this method.
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