Patterned Charge Generation Using Torsional Mode Atomic Force Microscopy

Web Published:

Princeton Docket # 16-3203-1


Researchers at Princeton University, PRISM Imaging and Analysis Center, have developed a new in-situ nano-triboelectrification method to generate patterned triboelectric charges on insulating material surface.


This method has been developed using torsional resonance mode atomic force microscopy (AFM). It can significantly increase (tenfold) the efficiency of generating patterned triboelectric charges over the conventional contact mode AFM. Moreover, it enables the tip to perform lateral oscillation during rubbing processes and keeps the tip-sample interaction in the attractive region by using the amplitude modulation scheme. This method also allows generating the patterned charges on a specific target or position of samples. In addition, experimental verification was successfully performed on different kinds of sample surfaces. The scanning Kelvin probe microcopy was used for in-situ characterization of the patterned charges distribution. This method has potential applications in research and developments of energy harvesting devices and self-powered sensors. It would also provide insights into understanding the mechanism of nano-triboelectrification.



•       Energy harvesting devices

•       Self-powered sensors

•       Electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection

•       Electrostatic force microscopy



•       Patterned triboelectric charges

•       High efficiency

•       Generate charge at nanometer scale

•       Keep tip-sample interaction in attractive region


The Faculty Inventor


Yao Nan, Director of the PRISM Imaging and Analysis Center at Princeton University

Dr. Yao’s research has been focused on utilizing advanced imaging, diffraction, spectroscopy and in-situ techniques, in tandem with molecular dynamic simulation, to conduct fundamental studies of the structure-composition-processing-property relationships in complex materials for applications in nanotechnology, energy, environment and health. He has published two books entitled Handbook of Microscopy for Nanotechnology (published in three languages) and Focused Ion Beam System: Basics and Applications. He has also authored 16 book chapters and more than 220 research publications in scientific journals. Dr. Yao is known for his many contributions including in developing the first 300 keV Environmental-cell Transmission Electron Microscope (1991) and on a theoretical explanation for the superior imaging resolution of scanning helium-ion microscopy over the scanning electron microscopy (2008). He serves on the editorial boards of ten professional journals and is on the research proposal advisory committee for NSF, DOE, NIH, NASA, two US National Labs (Oak Ridge and Brookhaven), and European Research Council. Yao has chaired nine international symposia and delivered over thirty invited lectures in recent years.


Intellectual Property & Development status

Patent protection is pending.

Princeton is currently seeking commercial partners for the further development and commercialization of this opportunity.



Michael R. Tyerech

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing

• (609) 258-6762•

Xin (Shane) Peng

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing

• (609) 258-5579•



Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Linda Jan
Technology Licensing Associate
Princeton University
Nan Yao
Wei Cai