Georgia Tech researchers have created a highly sensitive atomic force microscopy (AFM) technology capable of high-speed imaging 100 times faster than current AFM. This technology could prove invaluable for many types of nano-research, in particular for measuring microelectronic devices and observing fast biological interactions on the molecular scale, even translating into movies of molecular interactions in real time. The research, funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, appears in the February issue of Review of Scientific Instruments.
Not only is FIRAT (Force sensing Integrated Readout and Active Tip) much faster than AFM (the current workhorse of nanotech), it can capture other measurements never before possible with AFM, including material property imaging and parallel molecular assays for drug screening and discovery. FIRAT could also speed up semiconductor metrology and even enable fabrication of smaller devices. It can be added with little effort to existing AFM systems for certain applications.
"I think this technology will eventually replace the current AFM," said Dr. Levent Degertekin, head of the project and an asscoiate professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. "We've multiplied each of the old capabilities by at least 10, and it has lots of new applications."
FIRAT solves two of AFM's chief disadvantages as a tool for examining nanostructures -- AFM doesn't record movies and it can't reveal information on the physical characteristics of a surface, said Dr. Calvin Quate, one of the inventors of AFM and a professor at Stanford University.
"It is possible that this device provides us with the 'ubiquitous' tool for examining nanostruc
Contact: Megan McRainey
Georgia Institute of Technology