Organic materials are taking a growing place in the development of new materials for data technologies thanks to the potential of molecular engineering, the flexibility of available chemical compositions, the low costs..., but also because of their unique optical and mechanical properties. In this context, photopolymers present specific advantages particularly interesting for high density optical data storage, based on the possibility of structuring their linear and nonlinear optical properties with a great facility by direct optical patterning. In order to understand and control the physico-chemical aspects of the photopatterning, means of investigation at a micro and nanoscopic scales are required. Not only the 3D imaging of the object is needed, but some structural information on the material is necessary to go further in the investigation of the involved phenomena. AFM used in Pulsed Force Mode (PFM) fulfils these requirements: the PFM mode is a non-resonant mode designed to allow approach curves to be acquired along the scanning path. It thereby provides a recording of the sample topography and extends the possibilities of the prevalent contact and intermittent-contact AFM modes to a direct and simple local
characterization of adhesion and stiffness. This paper describes the principle of Pulsed Force Mode AFM and illustrates its usefulness for investigating of the photostructuration of polymer matrixes. In a first part, homogeneously irradiated films were characterized in order to demonstrate the sensibility of the PFM analysis. In particular, the PFM signal is correlated to the monomer conversion
ratio that was measured by FTIR spectroscopy. In a second step, we illustrate the potential of PFM for the investigation of photopatterned films. Holographic gratings were recorded in an acrylate-based formulation and characterized by PFM. We have successfully assigned the different areas of the film that correspond to different incident intensities. Using the information recorded on homogeneous films, it is possible to obtain an estimation of the conversion of the monomer at sub-micronic scale. Such a study is of primary importance in order to understand the mechanism leading to microstructuration and thus to optimize this process in terms of resolution.