This chapter covers the background to AFM, placing it in the context of other microscopic techniques. It describes some major highlights of AFM, illustrating the power of the technique. It describes how AFM can be compared to optical and electron microscopy, and where AFM is a more suitable technique, and also where it is not. The AFM was developed as a version of the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM), that would be more capable of imaging biological samples; however AFM is now far more widely used than STM, and the chapter describes the development of AFM and STM, and shows why AFM is more popular for many samples.
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