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August 13th, 2009

Nanotech Toolkit

Nanotechnology wouldn't exist as we know it without the instrumentation to characterize materials. Indeed, mass spectrometry uncovered the fingerprint to identify fullerenes about 25 years ago. For nanotech researchers today, believing is seeing, although they may take for granted their ability to visualize nanoscale matter.

College graduates in 2009, for instance, have never lived in a world without the atomic force microscope (AFM) and likely are not surprised by three-dimensional images of nanotubes or their university logos spelled out in DNA. First built in 1986, AFMs, along with other scanning probe microscopes (SPMs), have become critical tools for measurements and manipulations at the nanoscale.

According to instrument suppliers, nanotech researchers still desire cutting-edge technologies, and industry is starting to look for easy-to-use and robust instruments for metrology work and quality control in manufacturing. Moreover, educators want tools they can use to train students for a nanotech-savvy workforce that, according to National Science Foundation estimates, will need to be 2 million strong by 2015 to support nanotech-related industries.

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