Gaining insight into the physics of dynamic atomic force microscopy in complex environments using the VEDA simulator

Daniel Kiracofe, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University
John Melcher, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University
Arvind Raman, Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University

Date of this Version



Rev. Sci. Instrum. 83, 013702 (2012)


Copyright 2012 American Institute of Physics. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the American Institute of Physics. The following article appeared in Rev. Sci. Instrum. 83, 013702 (2012); and may be found at The following article has been accepted by Review of Scientific Instruments. Copyright 2012 Daniel Kiracofe, John Melcher and Arvind Raman. This article is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License


Dynamic atomic force microscopy (dAFM) continues to grow in popularity among scientists in many different fields, and research on new methods and operating modes continues to expand the resolution, capabilities, and types of samples that can be studied. But many promising increases in capability are accompanied by increases in complexity. Indeed, interpreting modern dAFM data can be challenging, especially on complicated material systems, or in liquid environments where the behavior is often contrary to what is known in air or vacuum environments. Mathematical simulations have proven to be an effective tool in providing physical insight into these non-intuitive systems. In this article we describe recent developments in the VEDA (virtual environment for dynamic AFM) simulator, which is a suite of freely available, open-source simulation tools that are delivered through the cloud computing cyber-infrastructure of nanoHUB ( Here we describe three major developments. First, simulations in liquid environments are improved by enhancements in the modeling of cantilever dynamics, excitation methods, and solvation shell forces. Second, VEDA is now able to simulate many new advanced modes of operation (bimodal, phase-modulation, frequency-modulation, etc.). Finally, nineteen different tip-sample models are available to simulate the surface physics of a wide variety different material systems including capillary, specific adhesion, van der Waals, electrostatic, viscoelasticity, and hydration forces. These features are demonstrated through example simulations and validated against experimental data, in order to provide insight into practical problems in dynamic AFM. (C) 2012 American Institute of Physics. [doi:10.1063/1.3669638]


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology