A home-made electrostatic force microscopy (EFM) system is described which is directed toward assessment of the microscopic geometry of the surface of specimens made of non-conductive material with a large thickness. This system is based on the variation in the electrostatic force between the conductive probe and the non-conductive specimen in order to get its surface morphology. First, based on the principle of dielectric polarization, the variation rules of the electrostatic force between the charged probe and the non-conductive specimen were studied. Later, a special tuning fork resonant probe unit made of quartz crystal was fabricated for measurement of the electrostatic force, and the scanning probe microscopic system in the constant force mode was constructed to characterize the three-dimensional micro-topography of the surface of the specimen. Finally, this system was used to perform scanning measurement experiments on the indented surface of the specimen made of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material with thickness 3 mm. In the present experimental system, when the external voltage was 100 V and the distance from the probe tip to the specimen surface approximately 100 nm, the variance in the resonant frequency of the probe unit was around 0.5 Hz. These results indicate that this home-made EFM system can effectively characterize the micro-topography of the non-conductive specimen with very large thickness which is above several millimeters.
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