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Posted: Dec 16, 2010

A microscope that can move atoms and draw super high resolution surface images of living cells

(Nanowerk News) The scanning probe microscope (SPM) can manipulate single atoms, move them in a controlled manner and help create novel nano-sized structures with very high precision. It can also map the terrain of living cells and allows biologists to obtain high-resolution images of a cell's surface. The uniqueness and versatility of the tool is underscored in a new book by local researchers from A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE). The book covers the practical uses of SPM and Singapore's significant contribution in this area.
IMRE written with individual gold atoms
'IMRE' written with individual gold atoms on Au(111). The atoms were manipulated into place using an SPM system.
The SPM creates extremely accurate high-resolution images of a specimen's surface by moving an extremely fine metal probe - which is a thousand times less than a hair's breadth - across the surface, one parallel line at a time. SPM can be used to image materials with atomic-scale resolution and can be used to study living cells in their original liquid-filled environments. SPM has also allowed A*STAR IMRE scientists to create the world's first controllable molecular gear and secure a place in a €10million European Union (EU) project to build a molecule-sized processor chip.
IMRE has more than 10 SPM systems which are used across multiple disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, and biology. Data gained from SPM can be used to benefit the semiconductor industry, advance molecular electronics, control friction between two surfaces at the molecular level and help in further scaling down the size of electronics.
"I believe it is a good showcase of Singapore's concerted effort in translating science into technology", said Dr Johnson Goh, a Senior Research Engineer with IMRE and one of the editors of the book. "This book covers the latest SPM research in Singapore, with many of the works looking beyond fundamental science to applications in nanoelectronics, biology and scalable nanolithography." IMRE also conducts annual symposiums on SPM, which involve both academic and industry partners to further promote the industry-relevant advantages of the tool.
The book entitled, "Scanning Probe Microscopy", will be published by World Scientific Publishing and will be internationally available after its launch on 15 December 2010 in conjunction with the 3rd Singapore Scanning Probe Microscopy Symposium (SingSPM 2010).
About the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE)
Established in September 1997, IMRE has built strong capabilities in materials analysis, characterisation, materials growth, patterning, fabrication, synthesis and integration. IMRE is an institute of talented researchers equipped with state-of-the-art facilities such as the SERC Nanofabrication and Characterisation Facility to conduct world-class materials science research. Leveraging on these capabilities, R&D programmes have been established in collaboration with industry partners. These include research on organic solar cells, nanocomposites, flexible organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), solid-state lighting, nanoimprinting, microfluidics and next generation atomic scale interconnect technology. For more information about IMRE, please visit www.imre.a-star.edu.sg
About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences, and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and seven consortia & centres, which are located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis, as well as their immediate vicinity.
A*STAR supports Singapore's key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in the universities, hospitals, research centres, and with other local and international partners. For more information about A*STAR, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg.
Source: A*STAR
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