Submicron resolution dielectric loss spectroscopy for a scanning probe microscope
The current focus of this research group is developing a scanning probe microscope based approach that will enable us to perform dielectric loss spectroscopy (i.e. loss tangent measurements) on thin film samples with submicron spatial resolution. Our goal is to develop this technique, based on a dynamic form of electrostatic force microscopy, into a useful addition to the suite of probing approaches available. Our efforts focus on composite polymer membranes that find use in a range of devices including an artificial photosynthesis system and other conducting polymer membranes such as those used in the fuel cells. Another key area of research is studying the potential for developing new materials for electrical insulation. In recent years much interest has been generated by the use of nanoparticles/nanofillers distributed through insulating polymers as a technique for modifying the dielectric constant of the insulator. Our interest is to look at whether these approaches lead to the development of local weak points due to the abrupt variation of dielectric character at submicron length scales. As the spatial resolution required is not attainable via conventional measurement approaches our new approach is well-placed to assist our collaborators in these studies.