AFM in the Chemical Industry

AFM has many uses in the chemical industry, from measuring surface roughness and finish on equipment to measuring individual chemical bonds.

One key application for AFM in chemistry is the characterization of catalyst powders, particularly nanoparticles.

Size and surface character of powder particles affects the performance of many catalysts.  In general, the more surface area exposed to the reactants, the more effective the catalyst, thus the interest in nanoparticles whose small size means the surface area is large for a given amount of material.

One of the challenges of developing catalysts using nanoparticles is measuring the size and surface character of those particles.  Several tools are available including Electron Microscopy (SEM and TEM), various light scattering techniques, and Atomic Force Microscopy.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses.  Advantages of AFM include operation at ambient conditions (no need for placing the sample in high vacuum) unlike SEM and TEM and that it can measure individual particles unlike light scattering techniques.  AFM can measure particles of size from several microns on down to the smallest sizes.

Some Examples