Molecular Vista’s PiFM @ Work – Blog

Molecular Vista’s latest news & applications.

Vis-PiFM to Visualize Nanoscale Absorption in Perovskite Photovoltaic Film

The chemical analysis of solar cell materials is an excellent application of Vis-PiFM. In a recent publication, our customers analyzed a ternary cation halide Cs0.05FA0.81MA0.14PbI2.55Br0.45 (CsFAMA)-based perovskite visual sensor that exhibits full-visible-spectra photovoltaic behavior and reconfigurable responsivity for adaptive image sensing and in-sensor machine vision. When this sensor is biased, accumulation of ionic species at […] Read more

Bioplastic: PiFM images of Polylactic Acid (PLA) - Alkyl Acrylate Copolymer (ACM) Composite

Bioplastic nanocomposite – PLA, PiFM and Ecology

With global attention on the role that plastics play in our ecosystem, many researchers are investigating new bioplastic or “biodegradable polymer” alternatives to reduce the ecological impact of plastic packaging. One such promising thermoplastic is polylactic acid (PLA). This bioplastic decomposes into lactic acid and can be derived from renewable resources like corn starch or sugar […] Read more

Analyzing a Cross-section of a Semiconductor Trench

Cross-section of a Semiconductor Trench

In this sample, a trench in a semiconductor device is cross-sectioned and imaged by the Vista-IR microscope. Two different materials are highlighted based on the unique IR absorption bands for each material. Twenty-five spectra are acquired across the interface of the two materials, with 10 nm spacing between each spectrum. Looking at the peak at […] Read more

Plasmid DNA pUC19 and a filamentous bacteriophage M13

Bacteriophage M13 and Plasmid DNA pUC1

Given the height of the bacteriophage M13 (3-4 nm), a single bacteriophage may have been imaged at 1720 cm-1 (C=O) and 1667 cm-1 (amide I) via PiFM. As is the case in many instances, PiFM images reveal features that are not clear in topography. Filamentous Bacteriophage M13 and Plasmid DNA pUC19 Test sample from K-Tek Nanotechnology.

Combined PiFM image of a meteorite sample shows high concentration of organic compounds in a phyllosilicate-organic composite.

Meteorite – A Search for Organic Compounds

Molecular Vista’s technology deconvolves the chemical composition of a meteorite at the nanoscale. The study of the chemical composition of meteorites should answer important questions about the nature of our early solar system by allowing scientists to investigate the possibility of liquid water and complex organic compounds being a part of a meteorite’s matrix. Could meteorites be the seeds […] Read more

Hyperspectral PiFM studies of source rock clearly and powerfully demonstrate the technique's ability to distinguish between inorganic and organic components in geologic mixtures. The differentiation between materials even extends to subclassifications of organics: aliphatic vs. aromatic REF: Eichmann, S., Nowak, D., Jacobi, D., & Burnham, N. (2018). Nanoscale Hyperspectral Characterization of Source Rock in Unconventional Reservoirs using Photo-Induced Force Microscopy. Microscopy and Microanalysis, 24(S1), 1040-1041.

Nanoscale Chemical Composition of Source Rock

Resolving the Nanoscale Chemical Composition of Source Rock using Hyperspectral Photo-Induced Force Microscopy Source rock or shale is a conglomeration of inorganic minerals –  e.g,  silicates and carbonates – interspersed with organic matter. Distinguishing the organic and inorganic phases may explain how nanoscale properties influence the properties of bulk rock. While topographic information (a) offers […] Read more

IR Spectra Replicated by PiFM Spectra

Agreement Between PiFM and Conventional IR Spectra PiFM spectra generally replicate conventional IR spectra recorded from bulk samples, shown in this example of polyethersulfone (PES). Occasionally, slight shifts in peak wavenumber and amplitude are observed in PiFM spectra, arising from the extreme sensitivity of PiFM to localized populations of molecules. One strength of the PiFM […] Read more

PiFM image at 1469 1/cm that identifies the islands as asphaltene, highlighting the sensitivity of PiFM at distinguishing between similar chemical species.

Distinguishing Subtle Chemical Variants

The chemical mapping capability of PiFM is demonstrated in an asphalt sample containing multiple related components. Note in the accompanying spectra that the signal strength for maltene is lower than asphaltene except at ~1501 cm-1 (shown in dotted circles on both PiFM and FTIR spectra). This small difference is easy to overlook until rendered in […] Read more

PiFM Mapping of Silver Nanowires in Transparent Conductors

Mapping Silver Nanowires in Transparent Conductors

These transparent conductors are composed of silver nanowires embedded in clear plastic. AFM topography (left) displays those nanowires that contribute to surface morphology. However, buried nanowires do not appear in topographic images. PiFM imaging (right) does reveal the placement of embedded nanowires by taking advantage of the enhancement of the overlying acrylate polymer signal (1745cm-1) […] Read more

A single self-assembled icosahedral protein cage imaged via PiFM, 20 nm at 1666 1/cm.

Single Self-assembled Icosahedral Protein Cage

Self-assembling proteins are candidates as building blocks for “smart” biomaterials that can potentially exploit the rich structural and functional properties of proteins. This has led to the design of new self-assembling protein structures such as these icosahedral protein cages. Since icosahedral protein cages can encapsulate large volumes, they are often used for vaccine design and […] Read more

PiFM image of PTQ10: IDIC blend films with thermal annealing (TA) treatment.

Nature Communications Publishes PiFM Image of PSC

A new PiFM application paper showing FTIR spectra, PiFM and PiFM+topography images of a polymer solar cell (PSC) with thermal annealing treatment was published in “Nature Communications” by Chenkai Sun, Zhi-Guo Zhang and Yongfang Li, “A low cost and high performance polymer donor material for polymer solar cells.” (doi:10.1038/s41467-018-03207-x) PiFM measurements were taken by William Morrison from Molecular […] Read more

Logo of Molecular Vista, Inc. on white background

Presenting Video Shorts from the Applications Lab

Episode 1: Nanoscale Silicon Strain Measurements – Silicon Oxide Stress Measurements.  Photo-induced Force Microscopy – Series – PiFM @ Work presents the first in a series of video shorts from the Applications Lab at Molecular Vista. Episode 1: Nanoscale Silicon Strain Measurements explores silicon oxide stress using the Vista-IR microscope. Please subscribe to our Molecular Vista […] Read more

exposed EUV PiFM imaging

Latent Images of Exposed EUV Photoresist

The development of EUV (extreme ultraviolet) resist materials is critical to producing semiconductor devices with the smallest feature sizes. Understanding the light-induced chemistry of EUV photoresist and its impact on the quality of EUV lithography would help engineers to optimize this important technology. Photo-induced Force Microscopy (PiFM), with its capability to detect nanoscale chemical properties, is well suited […] Read more

Silicon Strain in Semiconductor Devices

PiFM Imaging of Local Strain in Silicon at Individual FIN Level Carrier mobility enhancement through local strain in silicon is a means of improving transistor performance. In order to effectively validate device design and process conditions, a direct measurement of strain in the nanoscale is desired. Here, we demonstrate true nanoscale strain mapping via PiFM […] Read more

Chemical Communications Cover 18 Dec 2017, Weckhuysen et al

Cover of Chemical Communications!

Our paper with Utrecht University, NL, was chosen for the cover of Chemical Communications, a journal published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Special thanks to DongLong Fu in Dr. Bert Weckhuysen’s group, Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science (DINS), Utrecht University, The Netherlands, and Katie Park, Molecular Vista, for their pivotal work on this exciting […] Read more

PiFM Perovskite Solar Cell (PSCs)

Collaboration on PSCs Published in Advanced Materials

PiFM analysis of high-efficiency perovskite solar cells (PSCs): In collaboration with some leading researchers in high-efficiency polymer solar cells, Molecular Vista performed PiFM imaging on several samples. Transient absorption measurements and PiFM analysis investigated the effect of thermal-annealing on the active layer morphology and photo-voltaic performance of high-efficiency conjugated polymer donors for perovskite solar cells […] Read more

Lithium PLatelets

Nanochemical Mapping of Lithium Platelets

PiFM imaging shows a depletion of lithium from the edges of the platelets in a rechargeable Li-ion battery: Rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries continue to be the most prevalent form of electrical energy storage technology with applications in portable electronics and electric vehicles. One of the limiting factors in their performance is chemical and morphological changes […] Read more


Come and join us at TERS6! We’re looking forward to showcasing the PiFM technique and the Vista-IR instrument at the upcoming TERS6 event.  We’ll have many activities during the conference including: Live Demos – Live demonstrations of the instrument and PiFM technique throughout the show, Wednesday (8/16), Thursday (8/17) and Friday (8/18) Your Samples – […] Read more

Nanoscale Chemical Mapping with Extreme Surface Sensitivity

Since the dipole-dipole interaction between the induced sample dipole and the image tip dipole varies with ~ 1/z4 dependence where z is the tip-sample spacing, PiFM is expected to provide extreme surface sensitivity. We use PS(polystyrene)-b-PTMSS[poly(4-trimethylsilylstyrene)] block copolymer (BCP) with horizontal lamellae to demonstrate the surface sensitivity. The pitch L0 of the BCP is ~22 […] Read more

PiFm image of PS-b-PMMA

Our Paper “Nanoscale chemical imaging by photo-induced force microscopy” Published Today

Our paper titled “Nanoscale chemical imaging by photo-induced force microscopy” is published on the online publication of Science journal, Science Advances, today. The paper introduces infrared PiFM imaging on two block copolymer systems, PS-b-PMMA and PS-b-P2VP. By using infrared wavelengths that correspond to the absorption bands for each of the polymer components, each chemical component […] Read more

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