The atomic force microscopy (AFM) with the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) can measure intermolecular forces and perceive atoms and nanoparticles. It is the most versatile and powerful technology for studying samples at nanometres scales. AFM can easily measure 3-dimensional topography and other surface measurements and can generate atomic resolution images. Technological advancements and increasing demand for high-resolution microscopy in life sciences and biology drive market growth. The below figure depicts the applications of atomic force microscopy across various industry verticals.
Atomic force microscopy is one of the most important acronyms in nanotechnology. Instead of being impacted by the deadly pandemic, the AFM has emerged as one of the game-changers, offering innovative solutions regarding the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease. As global researchers are highly focusing on combating this growing threat and halting its spread by analyzing a wide range of pharmaceutical drugs. Nanotechnology has great potential to help in the prevention of the COVID-19 with nanofiber-based facial respirators, nanotechnology-enabled antimicrobial and antiviral disinfectants. Many scientists are developing nanotechnology sensors and nanomedicines, which are currently in clinical trials. Therefore, if laboratory results are promising, nanotechnology can effectively take over to tackle the ongoing global health emergency.
The first scanning tunneling microscope (STM) was developed in 1981. The research laboratories in Switzerland developed the first working prototype. Later, the atomic force microscope (AFM) was developed to overcome a basic drawback with STM. The STM could only image conducting or semiconducting surfaces. The AFM can image any type of surface, such as polymers, ceramics, composites, glass, and biological substrates. The original AFM consisted of a diamond crystal attached to the strip of gold foil. A second tip detected cantilever’s vertical movement with an STM placed above the cantilever.
Modern atomic force microscopes, however, have a very high-resolution type of scanning probe microscopy (SPM), with a demonstrated resolution of 1000 times more than the optical diffraction limit. With benefits such as force measurement, topographic imaging, and manipulation of nanoparticles and growing demand in various industry verticals, the atomic force microscopy market is anticipated to witness positive growth.
Growing R&D activities in nanotechnology and nanoscience and rising infrastructural modernization in semiconductor and microelectronics sector drive the market growth. The study of microscopic substrates such as polymers, adsorbed molecules, fibers, and powders in air or liquid in the medicine and pharmaceutical, food and beverage, as well as architecture and design is very crucial in advancing applications. Rapid popularity and growth in applied physics and chemistry to develop innovative solutions in future science are expected to attract heavy foreign investment, further driving the market growth.
One of the most vital challenges faced by the manufacturers while designing the microscope is accuracy and calibration. Environmental conditions such as temperature and pressure heavily impact the substrate that is being studied. Low contrast and glare can make it hard to see specific details; therefore, it requires extra effort on illumination techniques. High-quality optics and advanced digital image processing is a costly investment, further hampering the market growth.
Rapid evolution of bio-imaging technologies, resolution capabilities, and image analysis and data management is anticipated to broaden the horizons of nanotechnology used in the field of medicine, chemical, construction, military and defense, food & agriculture, and media and entertainment. Improvements in quantitative methods of integrated imaging are expected to open new boundaries for both developed and developing economies to contribute significantly in scientific discoveries. Developing countries such as India and China are greatly investing in AFM to study miniature aspects of science and technology and are anticipated to offer widespread growth opportunities in the upcoming years.
Some of the important end-users of the atomic force microscopy market include the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, semiconductor and electronics manufacturers, and the nanoscience industry. The industrial-grade AFM is expected to witness significant growth during the forecast period owing to the rising demand for the precise and high-quality images of the smallest structures and defect analysis in nanomaterials. The healthcare, chemical, and life science companies are highly demanding STM and research-grade AFMs to examine new materials, their mechanical properties, and force interactions.
North America is anticipated to dominate the atomic force microscopy market owing to the early adoption of the latest technology in its ever-growing semiconductor and micro-electronics industry. The region houses many key players that are investing, partnering, and collaborating with competitors to design and develop high resolution, single-chip AFM to achieve enhanced productivity at the microscopic level. In February 2017, Integrated Circuit Scanning Probe Instruments developed the highest resolution single-chip atomic force microscope (AFM).
Growing demand for high-resolution microscopy and a rising number of new players in the region collaborating to provide various advanced microscopy solutions drives the AFM market growth. The U.K. accounted for the highest share in the atomic force microscopy (AFM) market in 2017 in Europe. Semiconductor and electronics providers in most of the European regions are offering technologically advanced microscopes for the food industry. Prominent regions with rising healthcare and electronic industries such as the U.K., Spain, and France are anticipated to contribute to the market growth.
Emerging countries in APAC such as India and China is expected to register the highest demand of atomic force microscopes owing to their rising semiconductor industry and government funding to support R&D in the development of microscopes, and nanotechnology. Growing expertise and academic excellence and availability of low-cost nanomaterial drive the regional market growth.
New product development and increasing use of AFM microscopes in life and material science application provide impetus to the regional market growth. Semiconductor and nanotechnology-related developments are slowly rising in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Peru. It is expected that researchers and academic institutions will demand a high number of AFM microscopes to study the nanoscale structure for product innovation.
In the Middle East and Africa, growing technological innovations and the emergence of conventional biological laboratories drive market growth. The regional market is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period due to the growing penetration of smartphones and the adoption of advanced technologies. Industrial restructuring and investments by market players bolster market growth. GCC countries are also focusing on the development of microscopy technologies in the region.