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Vectorial scanning force microscopy using a nanowire sensor


Self-assembled nanowire (NW) crystals can be grown into nearly defect-free nanomechanical resonators with exceptional properties, including small motional mass, high resonant frequency and low dissipation. Furthermore, by virtue of slight asymmetries in geometry, a NW's flexural modes are split into doublets oscillating along orthogonal axes. These characteristics make bottom-up grown NWs extremely sensitive vectorial force sensors. Here, taking advantage of its adaptability as a scanning probe, we use a single NW to image a sample surface. By monitoring the frequency shift and direction of oscillation of both modes as we scan above the surface, we construct a map of all spatial tip–sample force derivatives in the plane. Finally, we use the NW to image electric force fields distinguishing between forces arising from the NW charge and polarizability. This universally applicable technique enables a form of atomic force microscopy particularly suited to mapping the size and direction of weak tip–sample forces.

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Figure 1: Experimental set-up.
Figure 2: Mode 1 and mode 2 frequency shift images.
Figure 3: 2D tip–sample force derivative, force and dissipation images.
Figure 4: Vector plots of electrostatic force fields.


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We thank S. Martin and the mechanical workshop at the University of Basel Physics Department for help in designing and building the NW microscope and J. Teissier for useful discussions. We acknowledge the support of the ERC through Starting Grants NWScan (Grant No. 334767) and UpCon (Grant No. 239743), the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (Project P1207), the Swiss National Science Foundation (Ambizione Grant No. PZ00P2-161284/1 and Project Grant No. 200020-159893) and the NCCR Quantum Science and Technology (QSIT).

Author information




N.R. and F.R.B. performed the experiment, G.T. and A.F.i.M. grew the nanowires, D.V., N.R., D.C. and M.P. designed and constructed the measurement set-up. N.R. fabricated the sample. N.R. and F.R.B. undertook the data analysis. N.R., F.R.B., and M.P. contributed to the interpretation of the data and wrote the manuscript. All authors commented and contributed to the manuscript. M.P. conceived and supervised the project.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Martino Poggio.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Rossi, N., Braakman, F., Cadeddu, D. et al. Vectorial scanning force microscopy using a nanowire sensor. Nature Nanotech 12, 150–155 (2017).

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