Report on AFM system used at Swansea University

JPK Instruments, a leading manufacturer of nanoanalytic instrumentation for research in life sciences and soft matter, reports on the use of its AFM system, the NanoWizard in the Physics Department at Swansea University. 

Dr Peter Dunstan is an associate Professor in the Department of Physics at Swansea University and a member of the University’s Centre for Nanohealth. His research utilises state of the art techniques and instrumentation to increase the fundamental understanding of the structural, chemical, optical and electronic properties of materials on the nanoscale, and by doing so advance the future application of those materials. This includes a broad platform of sample types including novel single crystal nanostructures to applications in soft matter, such as used in cell diagnostics. 

Asked why AFM is an important technique in his research, Dunstan said “AFM-based systems give us the opportunity of generating a clear understanding of the structure of the materials that we investigate. AFM can also offer us the opportunity to correlate this structural measurement with other characteristics. For instance, by coating an AFM probe with gold and utilising the interaction between the metallised tip and a sample, it allows us to exploit an optical antenna effect when the tip is illuminated by an externally focused laser of a suitable wavelength. This arrangement allows us to simultaneously correlate an enhanced localised spectroscopic response from the sample, along with the normal AFM response, and in doing so advance the application of the AFM instrument in line with our research objectives.” 

Having developed in-house instrumentation and used a variety of commercial scanning probe techniques including STM, AFM and SNOM for both research and teaching, Dunstan is well placed to comment on the advantages he sees in the NanoWizard system. “One major aspect of the benefits of using JPK has been the ability to embrace our own research innovations and hence allow us to integrate our technology advances into the JPK instrument. This has allowed us to retain the advances we have made and integrate them onto the stable JPK AFM platform for improved performance. Also partnership with other companies has been important and is an area where JPK showed tremendous willing for cross-platform integration (for example with AFM/optics/spectroscopy-based research and with the company Renishaw). Most recently, we published a paper in the Journal of Raman Spectroscopy on the use of TERS, tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, where we combined our JPK AFM and Renishaw Raman spectrometer to enhance lattice defect signatures in graphene.”

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