Thermal transport around the nanoscale contact area between the heated atomic force microscopy (AFM) probe tip and the specimen under investigation is a central issue in scanning thermal microscopy (SThM). Polarized light microscopy and AFM imaging of the temperature-induced crystallization of poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) films in the region near the tip were used in this study to unveil the lateral heat transport. The radius of the observed lateral surface isotherm at 133 °C ranged from 2.2 ± 0.5 to 18.7 ± 0.5 μm for tip−polymer interface temperatures between 200 and 300 °C with contact times varying from 20 to 120 s, respectively. In addition, the heat transport into polymer films was assessed by measurements of the thermal expansion of poly(dimethyl siloxane) (PDMS) films with variable thickness on silicon supports. Our data showed that heat transport in the specimen normal (z) direction occurred to depths exceeding 1000 μm using representative non-steady-state SThM conditions (i.e., heating from 40 to 180 °C at a rate of 10 °C s−1). On the basis of the experimental results, a 1D steady-state model for heat transport was developed, which shows the temperature profile close to the tip−polymer contact. The model also indicates that ≤1% of the total power generated in the heater area, which is embedded in the cantilever end, is transported into the polymer through the tip−polymer contact interface. Our results complement recent efforts in the evaluation and improvement of existing theoretical models for thermal AFM, as well as advance further developments of SThM for nanoscale thermal materials characterization and/or manipulation via scanning thermal lithography (SThL).
- 2023 OA procedure