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We studied the stability of force-feedback high-speed atomic force microscopy (HSAFM) by imaging soft, hard, and biological sample surfaces at various applied forces. The HSAFM images showed sudden topographic variations of streaky fringes with a negative applied force when collected on a soft hydrocarbon film grown on a grating sample, whereas they showed stable topographic features with positive applied forces. The instability of HSAFM images with the negative applied force was explained by the transition between contact and noncontact regimes in the force-distance curve. When the grating surface was cleaned, and thus hydrophilic by removing the hydrocarbon film, enhanced imaging stability was observed at both positive and negative applied forces. The higher adhesive interaction between the tip and the surface explains the improved imaging stability. The effects of imaging rate on the imaging stability were tested on an even softer adhesive Escherichia coli biofilm deposited onto the grating structure. The biofilm and planktonic cell structures in HSAFM images were reproducible within the force deviation less than ~0.5 nN at the imaging rate up to 0.2 s per frame, suggesting that the force-feedback HSAFM was stable for various imaging speeds in imaging softer adhesive biological samples.

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NOTICE: this is the author's version of a work that was accepted for publication in Ultramicroscopy. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Ultramicroscopy, 2013. DOI: 10.1016/j.ultramic.2012.09.012

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