Lego Mindstorms Scanning Probe Microscope

The students of Nanotech Innovations have designed and built a Scanning Probe Microscope completely out of LEGO™ parts. The microscope consists of three components: a flat surface on which LEGO™ bricks or other objects are placed, a tip equipped with sensors to read the surface, and a set of motors powered by a LEGO™ NXT Intelligent Brick that moves the tip. The NXT Brick is a powerful 32-bit microprocessor with Flash memory that processes scanned data, and transmits it to a laptop, which displays a model of the scanned surface in real-time. The SPM is used to demonstrate the concept of a scanning probe microscope and Nanotechnology to students of all ages.

Currently, the team is working on packaging our program so it can easily be transferred to other computers, as well as creating an instruction manual for the SPM. This manual will provide a classic “LEGO™ style” construction manual, as well as information on how to install and run the Scanning Program. This would allow high school enterprises or other interested groups to build their own SPM.

The LEGO™ SPM team has also had the opportunity to get involved with MIND TREKKERS, a student organization that aims to ignite enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, and math in elementary, middle, and high school students. The team is continually refining a set of 3-5 minute engaging, hands on, nanotechnology related demonstrations to share at MIND TREKKERS and other outreach events.

The LEGO™ SPM team has been working with the Chassel High School Enterprise on creating a LEGO™ Photo Diode Imaging System for their SPM. This semester the students are working on improving their previous design, which was presented at the Undergraduate Expo last spring.