The increasing role of nanotechnology and development of novel nanomaterials require understanding of structural, mechanical and electrical properties at the nanometer-scale.
Nanoparticles, fibers and sheets (such as graphene) are employed in a wide range of applicaton areas.
AFM and other scanning probe techniques (e.g. scanning tunneling microscopy) have been an integral part of the nanotechnology revolution, as they allow visualisation and manipulation in the boundary between continuous bulk material properties, and the "quantum region" at scales approaching molecular dimensions. The simplest application is for "super-resolution surface profiling" to quantitatively measure 3-D profiles of nano-patterned substrates. By scanning with a conducting tip, electrical properties like potential, current, capacitance and resistance can be measured. For example, scanning spreading resistance is used in the semi-conductor industry to characterize the boundary between different materials. Scanning with a magnetic tip provides a method to characterize e.g. magnetic recording media.