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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 2019

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
WS 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
  • 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 60 h 5 CP

Responsible coordinator of the module PH2140 in the version of SS 2019 was Johannes Barth.

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


This module focuses on scanning probe microscopes (SPM) as powerful tools to both explore and further manipulate 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 renders invaluable to physics, chemistry, materials science, and biology. Specifically, this course will cover the following methods:

  • Scanning tunneling microscopy (and spectroscopy)
  • Atomic force microscopy (and spectroscopy)
  • Scanning near-field optical microscopy

The underlying fundamental principles of the methodology and the experimental implementation of each technique is studied. Particular emphasis will be put on seminal experimental studies highlighting the potential of scanning probe microscopy to unveil nanoscale phenomena. We will learn on the application of SPM to obtain structural, electronic, magnetic, chemical and mechanical characterization of surfaces and surface nanostructures with spatiotemporal resolution. Furthermore, we will see how SPM can be used as a bottom up nanotechnology method via controlled manipulation of individual atoms and molecules.

Learning Outcome

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

1.     Describe the theoretical background and experimental setup of the visited scanning probe techniques

2.     Put into perspective their range of application

3.     Critically evaluate current studies using SPM

4.     Design SPM experiments


While there are no strict requirements, previous exposure to quantum mechanics, thermal physics and the basic notions of atomic, molecular & condensed matter physics will be helpful.

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

Learning and Teaching Methods

The module consists of a lecture and exercise classes.

The lectures are thematically structured and a handout of the slides is given at the beginning of each lecture. Each lecture commences with a clear outline of the learning objectives. Concepts are linked to prior knowledge acquired both in the general course of study and within the topics covered in this module. The beamer is used for the lecture presentation, while important concepts are illustrated and highlighted on the blackboard. 

The exercise classes provide a deeper understanding through examples and case studies from the scientific literature. They are further a setting for stimulating scientific discussions and where the students are encouraged to present and put into context their learning outcome. Laboratory visits guided by experts enhance the insight in the current applications of surface and nanoscale science. 

Question sheets provide the means of self-evaluation. Handouts and course announcements are also communicated via the Moodle platform. 


Class room beamer presentation, blackboard work, lecture notes, question sheets, lab visits, supplementary literature.


Recommended textbooks:

  • R. Wiesendanger: Scanning Probe Microscopy and Spectroscopy:Methods and Applications, Cambridge University Press, 1994
  • B. Voigtländer: Scanning Probe Microscopy: Atomic Force Microscopy and Scanning Tunneling Microscopy, Springer, 2015

The literature is based largely on journal articles. The lecture handouts contain hyperlinks of all relevant material available via the TUM library.

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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