Atomic Force Microscopes (AFMs) are versatile instruments that interact with surfaces at the nanometer scale. By "feeling" a sample using a very sharp needle, not unlike the way a record player works, a very precise 3D reconstruction of the surface can be created.

AFMs have been around since the 1980s and have become indispensable tools for scientists and engineers. ICSPI has improved these conventional instruments by dramatically reducing their size, cost, and complexity. We integrated all of the active components of an AFM onto a silicon microchip. The sharp needle can be positioned with three degrees of freedom by a tiny moving machine, or MEMS device, with built-in sensors. The MEMS device is made in the same reliable CMOS process as virtually all computer chips.