Accurate Wide-Modulus-Range Nanomechanical Mapping of Ultrathin Interfaces with Bimodal Atomic Force Microscopy

Victor G. Gisbert and Ricardo Garcia

Abstract: The nanoscale determination of the mechanical properties of interfaces is of paramount relevance in materials science and cell biology. Bimodal atomic force microscopy (AFM) is arguably the most advanced nanoscale method for mapping the elastic modulus of interfaces. Simulations, theory, and experiments have validated bimodal AFM measurements on thick samples (from micrometer to millimeter). However, the bottom-effect artifact, this is, the influence of the rigid support on the determination of the Young’s modulus, questions its accuracy for ultrathin materials and interfaces (1–15 nm). Here we develop a bottom-effect correction method that yields the intrinsic Young’s modulus value of a material independent of its thickness. Experiments and numerical simulations validate the accuracy of the method for a wide range of materials (1 MPa to 100 GPa). Otherwise, the Young’s modulus of an ultrathin material might be overestimated by a 10-fold factor.

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