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This study addresses the effect of sample preparation conditions on the structural integrity and composition of heavy hydrocarbon mixtures imaged by non-contact atomic force microscopy (nc-AFM). We designed and prepared a set of organic molecules mimicking well-accepted key characteristics of heavy oil asphaltenes including molecular architecture, molecular weight, boiling point, atomic H/C ratio and bond strength. We deliberately focused on multi-core molecule structures with long aliphaticdoi:10.26434/chemrxiv.7241036.v1 fatcat:ujikktz3cjch3ccytznicyeo7e