Normally AFM is used to image a surface without damaging it. However, AFM can be used to modify the surface deliberately, by applying either excessive force, or by applying high-field pulses. This technique is known as Nanolithography. Nanolithography patterns are created on the sample surface by two methods.
First method is to scratch the sample surface with hard tips, mechanically deforming the sample surface. Second method is to apply bias between the tip and the surface, inducing the change of the chemical properties of the surface.
The lithographic patterns can be generated in diverse forms: point or grid. Raster Nanolithography is common where the entire image is scanned.