Attaching a sample to the instrument's sample stage is commonly the first step in the operation of an AFM. For our commercial Digital Instruments Multimode AFM, a sample is usually attached to a magnetic sample puck by double-sided tape, the sample puck is then placed on the instrument’s magnetic sample stage, and analysis can begin.
The use of double-sided tape, however, has unpleasant consequences. First, the surface of the sample puck becomes quite sticky due to residual glue from the double-sided tape ! removing the sticky glue is not a happy job. One cannot just throw a soiled sample puck away! Second, double-sided tape does not always give satisfactory mechanical stability during AFM operation, especially when high resolution imaging is being carried out. Sometimes the tape-mounted sample will creep slowly, which can cause significant drift of AFM images. This is because the tapes and their adhesive films are made of pressure sensitive materials that tend to change shape when pressure and/or temperature vary.