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Posted: Apr 28, 2011

Asylum Research Cypher Atomic Force Microscope Achieves Point Defect Atomic Resolution in Liquids

(Nanowerk News) Asylum Research, the technology leader in scanning probe and atomic force microscopy (SPM/AFM) announced today that its revolutionary Cypher AFM is routinely achieving resolution of atomic-scale point defects in liquid. While scanning tunneling microscopes have routinely demonstrated point defect resolution since their invention, this gold standard of true atomic resolution has been more elusive in AFM. Many commercial AFMs can routinely image atomic lattices in ambient and liquid conditions, but the lack of point defects has led most researchers to conclude that the contact areas are typically several atoms across. More recently, instrumental improvements have brought true atomic resolution to ultra-high vacuum (UHV) AFM.
Achieving true-atomic resolution under ambient conditions at the liquid-solid interface brings this resolution to an environment highly relevant for much practical research. The Cypher AFM's industry best signal-to-noise and support for ultra-small probes have enabled this breakthrough in atomic scale imaging.
Successive AC mode topography images of the cleavage plane of a calcite crystal in water
Successive AC mode topography images of the cleavage plane of a calcite crystal in water. The repeated point defects demonstrate the true atomic resolution capabilities of the Cypher AFM. Arrows indicate scan direction. Scan size 20nm; Z scale 3.2Ĺ; Cantilever Amplitude 4Ĺ; Cantilever Frequency 454 kHz.
Commented Jason Cleveland, Asylum Research CEO, "This raises the bar on what people should expect in terms of AFM resolution. Some AFM companies are renaming modes that have been around for years –such as frequency modulation or force volumes– and re-introducing them as "new" modes. Asylum Research has a different approach. We took the most popular imaging mode, AC-mode (also known as tapping, intermittent-contact, or dynamic AFM), kept the name and improved the resolution. The proof is in the images. Prior to this, no other commercial AFM has demonstrated resolution at this level."
Several technological advancements make this atomic scale imaging achievement possible:
  • First is the improved signal-to-noise ratio from the use of ultra-small cantilevers with megahertz resonant frequencies in liquid, a capability unique to Asylum's state-of-the-art Cypher AFM.
  • Second, the optical lever detection noise floor has been pushed to 25 fm/rtHz, allowing the measurements to remain thermally limited even with very stiff cantilevers and amplitudes as small as 1 Angstrom. These two improvements allow operation with stiff cantilevers and tiny amplitudes, allowing gentle enough imaging that true atomic-sized contact areas are possible.
  • Finally, Cypher's exceptionally low open-loop noise of 5pm in X, Y, and Z allows the stability to image at this scale, even on a scanner with a 30µm lateral range.
  • About Asylum Research
    Asylum Research is the technology leader in atomic force and scanning probe microscopy (AFM/SPM) for both materials and bioscience applications. Founded in 1999, we are an employee owned company dedicated to innovative instrumentation for nanoscience and nanotechnology, with over 250 years combined AFM/SPM experience among our staff. Our instruments are used for a variety of nanoscience applications in material science, physics, polymers, chemistry, biomaterials, and bioscience, including single molecule mechanical experiments on DNA, protein unfolding and polymer elasticity, as well as force measurements for biomaterials, chemical sensing, polymers, colloidal forces, adhesion, and more. Asylum's product line offers imaging and measurement capabilities for a wide range of samples, including advanced techniques such as electrical characterization (CAFM, KFM, EFM), high voltage piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM), thermal analysis, quantitative nanoindenting, and a wide range of environmental accessories and application-ready modules.
    Asylum's MFP-3D set the standard for AFM technology, with unprecedented precision and flexibility. The MFP-3D is the first AFM with true independent piezo positioning in all three axes, combined with low noise closed-loop feedback sensor technology. The MFP-3D offers both top and bottom sample viewing and easy integration with most commercially-available inverted optical microscopes.
    Asylum's new Cypher AFM is the world's first new small sample AFM/SPM in over a decade, and sets the new standard as the world's highest resolution AFM. Cypher provides low-drift closed loop atomic resolution for the most accurate images and measurements possible today, >20X faster AC imaging with small cantilevers, Spot-On™ automated laser and photodetector alignment for easy setup, integrated thermal, acoustic and vibration control, and broad support for all major AFM/SPM scanning modes and capabilities.
    Asylum Research offers the lowest cost of ownership of any AFM company. Ask us about our industry-best 2-year warranty, our legendary product and applications support, and our exclusive 6-month money-back satisfaction guarantee. We are dedicated to providing the most technically advanced AFMs for researchers who want to take their experiments to the next level. Asylum Research also distributes third party cantilevers from Olympus, Nanoworld/Nanosensors, and our own MFM and iDrive™ tips.
    Source: Asylum Research (press release)
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