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Nanoscience using Scanning Probe Microscopy

Module PH2140

This module handbook serves to describe contents, learning outcome, methods and examination type as well as linking to current dates for courses and module examination in the respective sections.

Module version of SS 2018

There are historic module descriptions of this module. A module description is valid until replaced by a newer one.

Whether the module’s courses are offered during a specific semester is listed in the section Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature below.

available module versions
SS 2022WS 2021/2SS 2021WS 2020/1SS 2020SS 2019SS 2018WS 2017/8SS 2017SS 2012

Basic Information

PH2140 is a semester module in German or English language at Master’s level which is offered every semester.

This Module is included in the following catalogues within the study programs in physics.

  • Specific catalogue of special courses for condensed matter physics
  • Specific catalogue of special courses for Applied and Engineering Physics
  • Focus Area Imaging in M.Sc. Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for nuclear, particle, and astrophysics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for Biophysics

If not stated otherwise for export to a non-physics program the student workload is given in the following table.

Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
150 h 30 h 5 CP

Responsible coordinator of the module PH2140 in the version of SS 2018 was Florian Klappenberger.

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


This lecture course focuses on scanning probe microscopy as a powerful tool to explore the nanoworld. The ability of scanning probe techniques to visualize surfaces in real space and to characterize and even trigger physical and chemical processes on the atomic level makes them highly relevant in diverse fields as physics, chemistry, material science, or biology. Specifically, this course will cover the following methods:

  • Scanning tunneling microscopy
  • Scanning tunneling spectroscopy
  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Scanning near-field optical microscopy

We introduce fundamental principles, modes of operation and basic instrumentation for each technique. Great emphasis will be put on recent groundbreaking experimental studies highlighting the potential of scanning probe microscopy to unveil physical and chemical phenomena on the nanoscale. The topics include the structural, electronic, and magnetic characterization of surfaces and molecular nanostructures, quantum confinement, molecular rotors, but also the controlled manipulation of individual atoms and molecules.

Thus, the goal is to introduce students to the toolbox of scanning probe microscopy and to illustrate the fascinating phenomena that can be studied with it.

Learning Outcome

After successful completion of the module the students are able to:

1. understand the experimental Setup und the employed mothodology of the most important scanning probe techniques and to put into perspective their range of application.

2. follow presentations on the latest developments in the field of nanoscience at surfaces and to contribute to the related discussions.

3. autonomously develop a deeper understanding making use of the conveyed basics and approaches allowing to sharpen their expertise in nanoscience through independent literature research. 


There are no strict requirements, but basic atomic, molecular, and solid state physics and elementary chemistry of the Physics Bachelor are helpful.

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

Learning and Teaching Methods

The content of the lecture is conveyed through presentation of the theoretical basics and their experimental realization whereby the essential concepts are made comprehensible through selected examples. Makroscopic demonstration materials like crystal or molecule models are utilized for explaining the discussed effects. An important aspect is the initiation of interactive discussions on the presented topics with the students and between them. The provided script to the lecture contains hyperlinks to the original publications serving as a starting point for the independent scientific literature research. The students will be guided to deepen their understanding of the introduced topics through such research. 


- PowerPoint presentation with integrated animations and tutorial videos.
- interactive discussions at the black board.
- printed hand-outs and post-lecture PDFs with hperlinks.
- Lab visit 


The literature to this lecture is based on the scientific articles referred to in the lecture and made available through hyperlinks in the script.

Module Exam

Description of exams and course work

There will be an oral exam of 30 minutes duration. Therein the achievement of the competencies given in section learning outcome is tested exemplarily at least to the given cognition level using comprehension questions, discussion guided by schemes and simple formulas.

For example an assignment in the exam might be:

  • Which AFM measurement modes do you know and what are the differences between them?
  • Draw a scheme of the setup of a scanning tunneling microscope.
  • How can one get spin-sensitive STM measurements.

Exam Repetition

The exam may be repeated at the end of the semester.

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