atomic force microscope

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A microscope that uses a tiny probe mounted on a cantilever to scan the surface of an object. The probe is extremely close to-but does not touch-the surface. As the probe traverses the surface, attractive and repulsive forces arising between it and the atoms on the surface induce forces on the probe that bend the cantilever. The amount of bending is measured and recorded, providing a map of the atoms on the surface. Atomic force microscopes can achieve magnification of a factor of 5 X 106, with a resolution of 2 angstroms, sufficient to resolve individual carbon atoms. Also called scanning force microscope



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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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