The combination of infrared (IR) spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy (AFM) has produced a technique, called AFM-IR, which is becoming one of the most important recent developments in the field of IR spectroscopy and chemical imaging. Conventional Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) microspectroscopy is well established as a technique for chemical characterization of small samples down to the 3–10 mm size range. This diffraction-imposed size limit has prevented the application of FT-IR microspectroscopy to smaller analysis regions that are relevant to analysis problems in polymer materials and the life sciences. The nanoIR™ instrument (Anasys Instruments, Santa Barbara, CA) described here uses an AFM probe as the IR absorbance sensor and hence breaks through the diffraction limit to attain spatial resolution improvements of between one and two orders of magnitude beyond previous techniques. Thus, the AFM-IR concept provides chemical information from nanoscale regions of polymers and other organic materials. This article describes the physics behind the technique, followed by results from several applications.
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