New analysis procedure for fast and reliable size measurement of nanoparticles from atomic force microscopy images
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Accurate size measurement during nanoparticle production is essential for the continuing innovation, quality and safety of nano-enabled products. Size measurement by analysing a number of separate particles individually has particular advantages over ensemble methods. In the latter case nanoparticles have to be well dispersed in a fluid and changes that may occur during analysis, such as agglomeration and degradation, will not be detected which could lead to misleading results. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) allows imaging of particles both in air and liquid, however, the strong interactions between the probe and the particle will cause the broadening of the lateral dimension in the final image. In this paper a new procedure to measure the size of spherical nanoparticles from AFM images via vertical height measurement is described. This procedure will quickly analyse hundred of particles simultaneously and reproduce the measurements obtained from electron microscopy (EM). Nanoparticles samples that were difficult, if not impossible, to analyse with EM were successfully measured using this method. The combination of this procedure with the use of a metrological AFM moves closer to true traceable measurements of nanoparticle dispersions.
KeywordsNanoparticles Atomic force microscopy Electron microscopy Image analysis Size distribution
This work was supported by the Materials and Thermal program of the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills. Equipment support provided by the Centre of Excellence in Metrology for Micro and Nano Technologies (CEMMNT).
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