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Unstable amplitude and noisy image induced by tip contamination in dynamic force mode atomic force microscopy.

The Review of scientific instruments

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      Liquid 1-decanethiol was confined on an atomic force microscope (AFM) tip apex and the effect was investigated by measuring amplitude-distance curves in dynamic force mode. Within the working distance in the dynamic force mode AFM, the thiol showed strong interactions bridging between a gold-coated probe tip and a gold-coated Si substrate, resulting in unstable amplitude and noisy AFM images. We show that under such a situation, the amplitude change is dominated by the extra forces induced by the active material loaded on the tip apex, overwhelming the amplitude change caused by the geometry of the sample surface, thus resulting in noise in the image the tip collects. We also show that such a contaminant may be removed from the apex by pushing the tip into a material soft enough to avoid damage to the tip.

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