Exploring atomic-scale lateral forces in the attractive regime: a case study on graphite (0001)
A non-contact atomic force microscopy-based method has been used to map the static lateral forces exerted on an atomically sharp Pt/Ir probe tip by a graphite surface. With measurements carried out at low temperatures and in the attractive regime, where the atomic sharpness of the tip can be maintained over extended time periods, the method allows the quantification and directional analysis of lateral forces with piconewton and picometer resolution as a function of both the in-plane tip position and the vertical tip-sample distance, without limitations due to a finite contact area or to stick-slip-related sudden jumps of tip apex atoms. After reviewing the measurement principle, the data obtained in this case study are utilized to illustrate the unique insight that the method offers. In particular, the local lateral forces that are expected to determine frictional resistance in the attractive regime are found to depend linearly on the normal force for small tip-sample distances. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.