scanning probe microscopy abbr., SPM (rus. микроскопия, зондовая сканирующая abbr., СЗМ) — a branch of microscopy that forms images of surfaces using a probe that scans a specimen. An image of the surface is obtained by mechanically moving the probe in a raster scan of the specimen, line by line, and recording the probe-surface interaction as a function of the probe's position (coordinates).


Rapid growth of scanning probe microscopy applications followed the invention of a scanning tunnelling microscope in 1981. Today, different types of SPM may have resolutions ranging from the sub-micron to the atomic level. This is largely due to the ability of piezoelectric actuators to execute high-precision motions with an accuracy of less than one nanometre.

Scanning probe microscopes can image several interactions simultaneously. The manner of using these interactions to obtain an image is called a mode of a microscope.

The types of scanning probe microscopy are as follows:

Atomic Force Microscopy, AFM;

• Ballistic Electron Emission Microscopy, BEEM;

• Magnetic Force Microscopy, MFM;

• Magnetic Resonance Force Microscopy, MRFM; Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy, KPFM;

• Force Modulation Microscopy, FMM;

• Electrostatic Force Microscopy, EFM;

• Near-Field Scanning Optical Microscopy, NSOM, or Scanning Near-Field Optical Microscopy, SNOM; Scanning Capacitance Microscopy, SCM;

• Scanning Hall Probe Microscopy, SHPM;

• Scanning Ion-Conductance Microscopy, SICM;

• Scanning Voltage Microscopy, SVM;

• Scanning Thermal Microscopy, SThM;

Scanning tunnelling Microscopy, STM;

• Spin Polarised Scanning tunnelling Microscopy, SPSTM;

• Photon Scanning tunnelling Microscopy, PSTM;

• Electrochemical Scanning tunnelling Microscopy, ESTM.

Atomic force and scanning tunnelling microscopy, as well as magnetic force and near-field scanning optical microscopy, are the most commonly used SPM techniques.

The main advantages of scanning probe microscopy are as follows:

- High locality due to the probe-surface interaction;

- The probe may be used to modify the structure of a sample’s surface;

- The probe can be used in vacuum, in air and in liquid environments.

The main disadvantages of SPM are:

- Microscopy results depend largely on the shape and nature of the probe;

- Slow scanning techniques due to mechanical scanning process;

- Distortion of lateral spacings and angles as a result of temperature drift, inconsistent operation of piezoceramic element and the fact that data from different raster segments are obtained at different time periods.


  • Zotov Andrey V.
  • Saranin Alexander A.


  1. Oura K. et al. Surface Science: An Introduction // Springer, 2010 - 452 pp.
  2. Meyer E. et al. Scanning Probe Microscopy: The Lab on a Tip. — Berlin–Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2003. — 210 p.

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