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

Tunable diamond string may hold key to quantum memory: A process similar to guitar tuning improves storage time of quantum memory May 24th, 2018

Remote control of transport through nanopores: New study outlines key factors affecting the transfer of molecules through biological channels May 24th, 2018

2018 Kavli Prizes in Astrophysics, Nanoscience, and Neuroscience to be Announced Live on May 31: Live announcement at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters to be streamed live at World Science Festival Event May 24th, 2018

'Spooky action at a distance': Researchers develop module for quantum repeater May 23rd, 2018

Imaging

Columbia Researchers Squeeze Light into Nanoscale Devices and Circuits: Team is first to directly image propagation and dynamics of graphene plasmons at very low temperatures; findings could impact optical communications and signal processing May 23rd, 2018

NIST Puts the Optical Microscope Under the Microscope to Achieve Atomic Accuracy May 22nd, 2018

Elastic microspheres expand understanding of embryonic development and cancer cells May 15th, 2018

Nanoscale measurements 100x more precise, thanks to improved two-photon technique May 8th, 2018

Videos/Movies

Salt boosts creation of 2-D materials: Rice University scientists show how salt lowers reaction temperatures to make novel materials April 18th, 2018

Quantum shift shows itself in coupled light and matter: Rice University scientists corral, quantify subtle movement in condensed matter system April 16th, 2018

Improving human-data interaction to speed nanomaterials innovation: New application of data analysis, visualization techniques achieves better representation of multidimensional materials data: Work is part of Lehigh University's initiative to accelerate understanding of material March 27th, 2018

Individual quantum dots imaged in 3-D for first time February 28th, 2018

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Tunable diamond string may hold key to quantum memory: A process similar to guitar tuning improves storage time of quantum memory May 24th, 2018

Columbia Researchers Squeeze Light into Nanoscale Devices and Circuits: Team is first to directly image propagation and dynamics of graphene plasmons at very low temperatures; findings could impact optical communications and signal processing May 23rd, 2018

NIST Puts the Optical Microscope Under the Microscope to Achieve Atomic Accuracy May 22nd, 2018

Magnesium magnificent for plasmonic applications: Rice University, University of Cambridge synthesize and test nanoparticles of abundant material May 22nd, 2018

Discoveries

Tunable diamond string may hold key to quantum memory: A process similar to guitar tuning improves storage time of quantum memory May 24th, 2018

Remote control of transport through nanopores: New study outlines key factors affecting the transfer of molecules through biological channels May 24th, 2018

'Spooky action at a distance': Researchers develop module for quantum repeater May 23rd, 2018

Columbia Researchers Squeeze Light into Nanoscale Devices and Circuits: Team is first to directly image propagation and dynamics of graphene plasmons at very low temperatures; findings could impact optical communications and signal processing May 23rd, 2018

Announcements

Tunable diamond string may hold key to quantum memory: A process similar to guitar tuning improves storage time of quantum memory May 24th, 2018

Remote control of transport through nanopores: New study outlines key factors affecting the transfer of molecules through biological channels May 24th, 2018

2018 Kavli Prizes in Astrophysics, Nanoscience, and Neuroscience to be Announced Live on May 31: Live announcement at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters to be streamed live at World Science Festival Event May 24th, 2018

'Spooky action at a distance': Researchers develop module for quantum repeater May 23rd, 2018

Tools

Columbia Researchers Squeeze Light into Nanoscale Devices and Circuits: Team is first to directly image propagation and dynamics of graphene plasmons at very low temperatures; findings could impact optical communications and signal processing May 23rd, 2018

NIST Puts the Optical Microscope Under the Microscope to Achieve Atomic Accuracy May 22nd, 2018

Self-assembling 3D battery would charge in seconds May 22nd, 2018

A micro-thermometer to record tiny temperature changes May 15th, 2018

Military

Tunable diamond string may hold key to quantum memory: A process similar to guitar tuning improves storage time of quantum memory May 24th, 2018

Columbia Researchers Squeeze Light into Nanoscale Devices and Circuits: Team is first to directly image propagation and dynamics of graphene plasmons at very low temperatures; findings could impact optical communications and signal processing May 23rd, 2018

Hematene joins parade of new 2D materials: Rice University-led team extracts 3-atom-thick sheets from common iron oxide May 8th, 2018

Engineered polymer membranes could be new option for water treatment May 6th, 2018

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



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project