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Atomic Force Microscope Small Enough to Fit on a Computer Chip

Atomic Force Microscope Small Enough to Fit on a Computer Chip

Researchers at the University of Texas (UT) Dallas developed an atomic force microscope (AFM) with microelectromechanical technology. The result is a centimeter-sized AFM with a tip that oscillates up and down perpendicular to the sample. It utilizes tapping mode instead of the contact mode. The new design features a single piezoelectric transducer for both actuation and sensing. An optical sensor isn’t required. Here’s more info from a professor of mechanical engineering at UT Dallas:

Performing the measurement in tapping mode reduces the forces applied to the sample, which is important when scanning fragile samples such as biological specimens…

We imagine that a final version of the system would use a similar approach, with a compact motorized mechanism being used to bring the MEMS die in contact with the sample from above…

At this stage, imaging within a liquid environment is not feasible with this device. However, future iterations of the MEMS AFM may be designed with this capability in mind…

There were significant challenges in designing the device to comply with the requirements of the fabrication process while obtaining the desired characteristics in terms of mechanical bandwidth, displacement range, and cross coupling…

Our ultimate aim is to develop a system that can perform video-rate AFM imaging using a single MEMS chip. The current device successfully demonstrates many of the capabilities required, and future iterations of the device will be designed to further work towards this goal. Such a device would enable high-speed AFM imaging to be performed using a portable and cost-effective system.

-Reza Moheimani

Source: IEEE Spectrum

Image Credit: Jubobroff from Wikimedia Commons under CC Screenshot section of video

Atomic Force Microscope Small Enough to Fit on a Computer Chip
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