Skip to Main Content
The atomic force microscope (AFM) is one of the foremost tools for imaging, measuring and manipulating matter at the nanoscale. This brief presents a review of the systems and control approach to analyzing the challenging dynamic-mode operation of the AFM. A Lure system perspective of the AFM dynamics facilitates the application of powerful tools from systems theory for the analysis. The harmonic balance method provides significant insights into the steady-state behavior as well as a framework for identifying the tip-sample interaction force. A simple piecewise-linear tip-sample interaction model and its identification using the harmonic balance method is presented. The dominant first harmonic is analyzed using multivalued frequency responses and the corresponding stability conditions. The ability of the simple tip-sample interaction model to capture the intricate nonlinear behavior of the first harmonic is demonstrated. This also points to the importance of studying the higher harmonics to obtain finer details of the tip-sample interaction. The suitability of the Lure system perspective for the analysis of the higher harmonics is demonstrated.