U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Ultramicroscopy 106 (2006) 909–913.


A time-resolved method for tip’ retraction at µs-scale away from dielectric surfaces has been developed. Analysis of the forces in the system comprising AFM tip, water meniscus, and polymer film suggests that an electrostatic repulsion of the tip from the surface in the double-layered (water and polymer) system, and water condensation in the tip–surface junction are the dominant factors enabling the mechanical work for tip retraction. Nanostructures of 5–80nm height are formed in polymeric surfaces as a result. This interesting physical phenomenon could be used for nanostructures patterning in polymeric materials at enhanced aspect ratio.