Surface Forces Lab

Surface Forces Laboratory

Our SFA Lab is a temperature controlled facility for measuring atomic forces between macroscopic surfaces positioned with angstrom precision under dynamic or equilibrium conditions. The lab consists of two rooms, each with its own surface force apparatus (SFA) as shown.

The temperature of each SFA room is controlled to +/- 0.1 degrees Celsius. Each apparatus is vibration isolated using compressed air flotation tables. Experiments can be performed in complete darkness or in ambient red lighting to preserve the operator’s night vision. Computerized data acquisition programs and touch-and-feel ergonomics have been incorporated to enhance the efficiency of data collection and reduce operator fatigue.


The Surface Force Apparatus (SFA)

The SFA has been modified with capabilities optimized towards measuring static interactions between soft materials, such as biological membranes, proteins, and thin polymeric layers. Time-resolved measurements of molecular forces between surfaces can be conducted with spatial accuracies to ±0.1 Å. Automation under computer-feedback control permits a wide range of high-resolution experiments to be performed, including programmed sequences of surface movement while distance and force information is analyzed and recorded in real time.