The combination of the AFM technique and the sphere-mediated microscopy (SMM) opens a new opportunity to the Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). With the help of a tipless AFM cantilever is possible to place and scan a microspheres (MS) close to the surface. From the optical point of view, when a MS is close to a surface act as high NA nanolenses whose optical characteristics define the maximum attainable resolution.
By using the stages of a standard AFM, the microsphere can easily scan over the surface. The deflection of the cantilever could still be used to control the distance between microsphere and sample. With an optical detector and a low N.A. objective is so possible to obtain optical high resolution maps synchronized with the topography ones.
Despite microspheres do not to break the Abbe diffraction limit or produce super-resolution, they can be used as portable and cheap optical elements that can enhance the effective NA of a system. A systematic optical characterization of the system will be presented in parallel with some preliminary results of forthcoming applications of SMM in nanolithography, micro or nano Raman spectroscopy and Near Filed Optical Microscopy (SNOM).