Scanning probe microscopy (SPM) is a method for mapping surface forces of materials on the atomic scale. By mapping these forces, much can be learned about the surfaces of materials, where many interesting and complex phenomena occur. For example, many chemical reactions involving solids are dependent on the nature of their surfaces. Scanning probe microscopy includes the methods of atomic force microscopy (AFM), magnetic force microscopy (MFM), and lateral force microscopy (LFM). Most force microscopy techniques are variations of the same basic principle. Forces between the surface and a cantilever tip cause the tip to deflect up and down or sometimes side to side. Deflection of the cantilever shifts the position of a laser beam that reflects off the top of the cantilever onto a photodiode array. The movement of the beam between the photodiodes is used to calculate the cantilever deflection.
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