Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Microscope probe-sharpening technique improves resolution, durability

Joseph Lyding, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois, led a group that developed a new microscope probe-sharpening technique.
Joseph Lyding, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois, led a group that developed a new microscope probe-sharpening technique.

Abstract:
A simple new improvement to an essential microscope component could greatly improve imaging for researchers who study the very small, from cells to computer chips. Joseph Lyding, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois, led a group that developed a new microscope probe-sharpening technique. The technique is described in research published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

Microscope probe-sharpening technique improves resolution, durability

Champaign, IL | Posted on July 5th, 2012

Scanning probe microscopes provide images of tiny structures with high resolution at the atomic scale. The tip of the probe skims the surface of a sample to measure mechanical, electrical or chemical properties. Such microscopes are widely used among researchers who work with tiny structures in fields from nanotechnology to cellular biology.

Labs can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an elegant instrument - for example, a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) or an atomic force microscope (AFM) - yet the quality of the data depends on the probe. Probes can degrade rapidly with use, wearing down and losing resolution. In such cases, the researcher then has to stop the scan and replace the tip.

"To put it in perspective, if you had an expensive racecar but you put bicycle tires on it, it wouldn't be a very good car," Lyding said.

To shape tips, researchers shoot a stream of ions at the tip. The material sputters off as the ions collide with the tip, whittling away the probe. One day in the lab, after yet another tip failure, Lyding had the simple, novel idea of applying a matching voltage to the tip to deflect the incoming ions. When a voltage is applied to a sharp object, the electrical field gets stronger as the point narrows. Therefore, ions approaching the sharpest part of the electrified tip are deflected the most.

"This causes the ions to remove the material around that sharp part, not on the sharp part itself, and that makes it sharper," Lyding said. "You preserve the point and you sharpen what's around it."

Lyding and graduate student Scott Schmucker purchased an inexpensive ion gun and tested Lyding's idea. It worked beautifully. STM tips with a starting radius of 100 nanometers were honed to a sharp 1-nanometer point, yielding extremely high resolution. In addition, the sputtering process works with any electrically conductive material.

But once the probes are ultra-sharp, what's to keep them from wearing down just as quickly as other probes? Lyding and Schmucker then teamed with U. of I. chemistry professor Gregory Girolami and materials science and engineering professor John Abelson, whose groups had demonstrated coatings for silicon semiconductors made of a material called hafnium diboride. The coatings are 10 times harder than the metal usually used to make STM tips, but are also metallic - the key property for the ion-sputtering process.

The group applied the hafnium diboride coatings to their probes, sputtered them further, and found that the resulting probes are stable, durable and excel in the types of microscopy and patterning applications for which such tips are used.

"Nobody else makes probes with the combination of sharp, hard and metallic conduction," said Lyding, who is also affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I. "You can find one or the other but not all three. There's a tremendous demand for that."

The researchers now are moving to commercialize their tough, sharp probes. They received a patent and started a company called Tiptek to begin manufacture. They are also expanding their sharpening technique to include AFM probes as well as STM, and are developing batch-processing techniques for higher throughput.

"When people make AFM tips they make them on wafers, hundreds of tips at a time," said Lyding. "The methodology that we're developing lets us process this entire wafer as a unit so all 400 tips would be done at the same time."

The Office of Naval Research, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and the National Science Foundation supported this work.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Liz Ahlberg
Physical Sciences Editor
217-244-1073


Joe Lyding
217-333-8370

Copyright © University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

The paper, “Field-directed Sputter Sharpening for Tailored Probe Materials and Atomic-scale Lithography,” is available online:

Related News Press

News and information

Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology: Physicists demonstrate how heating up a quantum system can be used as a universal probe for exotic states of matter August 22nd, 2017

A Tougher Tooth: A new dental restoration composite developed by UCSB scientists proves more durable than the conventional material August 22nd, 2017

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Tokai University research: Nanomaterial wrap for improved tissue imaging August 21st, 2017

Silk could improve sensitivity, flexibility of wearable body sensors August 20th, 2017

Imaging

Tokai University research: Nanomaterial wrap for improved tissue imaging August 21st, 2017

Industry’s First Dedicated Cryo-DualBeam System Automates Preparation of Frozen, Biological Samples: New Thermo Scientific Aquilos FIB/SEM protects sample integrity and enhances productivity for cryo-electron tomography workflow August 8th, 2017

Thermo Fisher Scientific Advances Cryo-EM Leadership to Drive Structural Biology Discoveries: New Thermo Scientific Krios G3i raises bar for performance, automation and time-to-results Breakthrough Thermo Scientific Glacios provides a cryo-EM entry path for a broader range of res August 8th, 2017

Videos/Movies

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet August 17th, 2017

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet August 17th, 2017

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

2-faced 2-D material is a first at Rice: Rice University materials scientists create flat sandwich of sulfur, molybdenum and selenium August 14th, 2017

Discoveries

Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology: Physicists demonstrate how heating up a quantum system can be used as a universal probe for exotic states of matter August 22nd, 2017

A Tougher Tooth: A new dental restoration composite developed by UCSB scientists proves more durable than the conventional material August 22nd, 2017

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Tokai University research: Nanomaterial wrap for improved tissue imaging August 21st, 2017

Announcements

Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology: Physicists demonstrate how heating up a quantum system can be used as a universal probe for exotic states of matter August 22nd, 2017

A Tougher Tooth: A new dental restoration composite developed by UCSB scientists proves more durable than the conventional material August 22nd, 2017

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Tokai University research: Nanomaterial wrap for improved tissue imaging August 21st, 2017

Tools

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Tokai University research: Nanomaterial wrap for improved tissue imaging August 21st, 2017

Scientists from the University of Manchester and Diamond Light Source work with Deben to develop and test a new compression stage to study irradiated graphite at elevated temperatures August 15th, 2017

FRITSCH • Milling and Sizing! Innovations at POWTECH 2017 - Hall 2 • Stand 227 August 9th, 2017

Military

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

2-faced 2-D material is a first at Rice: Rice University materials scientists create flat sandwich of sulfur, molybdenum and selenium August 14th, 2017

Moving at the Speed of Light: University of Arizona selected for high-impact, industrial demonstration of new integrated photonic cryogenic datalink for focal plane arrays: Program is major milestone for AIM Photonics August 10th, 2017

Sensing technology takes a quantum leap with RIT photonics research: Office of Naval Research funds levitated optomechanics project August 10th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project