UTD Team Creates Tiny, More Affordable Atomic Force Microscope

The UT Dallas device can be mounted on a microchip and uses a micro electromechanical systems approach.

microscope

Atomic force microscopes that can detail materials at the molecular level are often bulky, large, and impractical.

But engineers at The University of Texas at Dallas have shrunk the device to the size of a dime, or about 1 square centimeter, according to the university. Conventional atomic microscopes use a tip to examine the surface.

“We have managed to miniaturize all of the electromechanical components down onto a single small chip.”
Dr. Reza Moheimani

“A standard atomic force microscope is a large, bulky instrument, with multiple control loops, electronics and amplifiers,” said Dr. Reza Moheimani, professor of mechanical engineering at UT Dallas.  “We have managed to miniaturize all of the electromechanical components down onto a single small chip.” 

The UT Dallas device, which can be mounted on a microchip, uses a micro electromechanical systems approach.

According to Scienmag, an atomic force microscope is used to create three-dimensional images of the surfaces of materials that’s roughly “on the scale of individual molecules.”

The smaller, more practical device could also be more affordable than the conventional microscopes. They could be made on a mass scale for just a few dollars each.

The typical atomic microscope costs between $30,000 to $500,000.


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