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Posted: November 13, 2008

Russian engineers develop fully automated scanning probe microscope

(Nanowerk News) Scanning probe microscopy proved itself the most effective technology for studying objects of nano-size and properties of surfaces with super-resolution. Today the field of nanotechnology generates tasks, which become more and more complicated, and that is why new requirements for laboratory hardware appear. Modern scanning probe microscopes are known to be extremely difficult to adjust – the tuning process is very long and depends on a user. This leads to bad reproducibility of results.
Russian engineers developed a new fully automated scanning probe microscope – SmartSPM, which allows the following automatic manipulations: adjustment of detection system, taking the probe closer to a sample and setting scanning parameters. Improvements limit the time, which passes from switching the microscope to scanning start, to as little as five minutes. SmartSPM affords an opportunity of choosing the optimal site for the recording laser, as well as testing cantilever reflecting surface before the experiment starts.
The sample is able to move in the horizontal plane, thus a user can easily find a region, where he or she wants to perform scanning. When the microscope is in automatic mode, the user only needs to specify the main probe parameters and scanning field, and then the unit will perform a full system adjustment, move the probe towards the sample and start scanning. The ability of SmartSPM to work in automatic mode significantly reduces the time required for training to work with the microscope, and makes the unit suitable for both research and learning purposes.
SmartSPM’s optical system works in two position: vertical with 100x lens and numerical aperture 0.7 and angled with 20x lens and numerical aperture 0.42. Since the sample can be accessed from above and from aside, the user can not only examine it, but also treat it with laser, which has preset polarization, and collect scattered light from sample’s surface – a very important feature for conducting TERS (tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy) experiments.
SmartSPM features a newly designed scanner with very high resonance frequencies (XY resonance frequency is 7 kilohertz, and Z resonance frequency is 15 kilohertz) – perfect for scanning ten times faster than other microscopes. The scanning system of the SmartSPM microscope is based upon high-quality monolithic piezo-transformers and is a highly stable super-resolution system with metrological properties.
The microscope’s software integrates the programming language Lua, which allows users to modify the device according to their specific tasks and perform a series of automatic measurements at various sites, located on the sample’s surface. Another integrated macroassembly language for programming the DSP controller board offers users the opportunity to create their own algorithms for scanning and recording power curves, as well as performing nanolithography.
Source: Russia IC