AFM in the Aerospace Industry

Atomic Force Microscopy is a powerful tool for investigation of the advanced materials used in the aerospace industry. Some examples include:

Devices fabricated on SiC semiconductor wafers. In addition to topographic imaging, various electrical techniques such as Scanning Spreading Resistance Measurements (SSRM), Tunneling AFM (TUNA), and Scanning Capacitance Microscopy can give insight into the electrical performance of the devices and help diagnose problems in the manufacturing process.

The continuity and homogeneity of reflective and anti-reflective coatings is a critical aspect of the performance of those coatings. By measuring surface differences and detecting material differences on the micron to nanometer scale, AFM can help qualify such surfaces improving quality.

Extreme polishes are required for optics in the ultraviolet and x-ray range. AFM is a powerful tool for measuring the roughness of ultra-polished surfaces, able to detect and measure irregularities in the picometer range ensuring the quality of the optics and the processes used to produce them.

One area of current interest is using carbon nanotubes to make strong, lightweight structures to make aircraft lighter and more efficient, reducing fuel use and the associated carbon emissions. The stronger structures could also make aircraft safer. AFM can be used to examine individual nanotubes and the surface structure of aggregates to help improve the quality of production processes and reduce development costs.

These are just a few of the ways that AFM can and have been used in the Aerospace industry.