Design and development of scanning eddy current force microscopy for characterization of electrical, magnetic and ferroelectric properties with nanometer resolution

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Advisor: Sathish Shamachary


This dissertation describes the design and development of a new high-resolution electrical conductivity imaging technique combining the basic principles of eddy currents and atomic force microscopy (AFM). An electromagnetic coil is used to generate eddy currents in an electrically conducting material. The eddy currents induced in the sample are detected and measured with a magnetic tip attached to the AFM cantilever. The interaction of eddy currents with the magnetic tip-cantilever is theoretically modeled. The model is then used to estimate the eddy current forces generated in a typical metallic material placed in induced current field. The magnitude of the eddy current force is directly proportional to the electrical conductivity of the sample. The theoretical eddy current forces are used to design a magnetic tip-cantilever system with appropriate magnetic field and spring constant to facilitate the development of a high-resolution, high sensitivity electrical conductivity imaging technique. The technique is used to experimentally measure eddy current forces in metals of different conductivities and compared with theoretical and finite element models. The experimental results show that the technique is capable of measuring pN range eddy current forces. The experimental eddy current forces are used to determine the electrical resistivity of a thin copper wire and the experimental value agrees with the bulk resistivity of copper reported in literature. The imaging capabilities of the new technique are demonstrated by imaging the electrical conductivity variations in a composite sample and a dual-phase titanium alloy in lift mode AFM. The results indicate that this technique can be used to detect very small variations in electrical conductivity. The spatial resolution of the technique is determined to be about 25 nm by imaging carbon nanofibers reinforced in polymer matrix. Since AFM is extensively used to characterize nanomaterials, the newly developed technique is used to characterize metallic nanoparticles. The results showed for the first time that it is possible to image helicons in nanometallic particles at low electromagnetic frequencies using an AFM. The theoretical analysis of the helicons in nanostructured materials is presented using the concept of effective mass of electrons. The primary objective of the research work reported in this dissertation is to develop a high-resolution electrical conductivity imaging system. However, the interaction of induced currents with different materials gives rise to different interaction forces. If an appropriate probe and an imaging mode are used, different material properties can be characterized using the same experimental setup. Therefore, in this study, magneto-acoustic, magnetic and dielectric properties of materials placed in induced current fields are studied. The modifications necessary to image these properties are discussed in detail. The advantages, limitations and applications of the new methodology are discussed.


Eddy currents (Electric), Electric conductivity, Atomic force microscopy, Nanostructured materials Electric properties

Rights Statement

Copyright 2009, author