The invention images dielectric polarization forces on surfaces induced by a charged scanning force microscope (SFM) probe tip. On insulators, the major contribution to the surface polarizability at low frequencies is from surface ions. The mobility of these ions depends strongly on the humidity. Using the inventive SFM, liquid films, droplets, and other weakly adsorbed materials have been imaged.
This invention was made with U.S. Government support under Contract No. DE-AC03-76SF00098 between the U.S. Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. The U.S. Government may have certain rights in this invention.