Atomic Force Microscopy
ICSPI makes the nGauge—the world's smallest, simplest and most affordable atomic force microscope (AFM).
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.
The AFM was invented in 1985 and it has 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. The single chip AFM is mounted onto a printed circuit board (PCB) as you can see in the animation below.
The PCB is mounted onto the stage to create a truly portable benchtop AFM. There are many advantages to small AFMs, including vibration immunity and lower drift. To learn more about the advantages, check out our post on Why Smaller AFMs are Better.