Low-noise humidity controller for imaging water mediated processes in atomic force microscopy
We demonstrate the construction of a novel low-noise continuous flow humidity controller and its integration with a commercial variable-temperature atomic force microscope fluid cell, allowing precise control of humidity and temperature at the sample during nanoscale measurements. Based on wet and dry gas mixing, the design allows a high mechanical stability to be achieved by means of an ultrasonic atomiser for the generation of water-saturated gas, improving upon previous bubbler-based architectures. Water content in the flow is measured both at the inflow and outflow of the fluid cell, enabling the monitoring of water condensation and icing, and allowing controlled variation of the sample temperature independently of the humidity. To benchmark the performance of the controller, the results of detailed noise studies and time-based imaging of the formation of ice layers on highly oriented pyrolytic graphite are shown. Published by AIP Publishing.