Scanning Tunneling Microscope

The scanning tunneling microscope (STM) team designs, develops, and constructs affordable STM products and educational materials. Our current project is the development of a low-cost STM scanner and control system. We want to make quality STMs widely accessible to high-school educators.

An STM utilizes the quantum tunneling effect to produce highly magnified images of a sample. Electrons leap from an atomically sharp metal tip to the sample, producing a tunneling current. This current is amplified and monitored by an electronic feedback system. Changes in the tunneling current are used to construct an image of the sample’s atomic structure.

Our first prototype scan head has been constructed, and is currently in functional testing. The electronics build phase will begin as soon as circuit board design is complete. The team will then test the complete system and specify the first hardware revisions. We aim to finalize a production scan head by 2012. Future goals include a full control system and computer interface.

Members of the STM team research and apply mechanical and electronic design elements, specifically piezoelectric materials, feedback control systems, PCB design, and signal processing.

 

Tip Etching Project:

A supplemental project of the enterprise is to find a cheap method of manufacturing atomically sharp STM probes for our own devices and, possibly, as a service for our customers. The wire for STM tips is expensive and there is no good way to sharpen or resharpen the tips. The high cost further limits the usability of the STM for smaller organizations. If the enterprise makes a low cost product for use in education, new companies and organizations will be able to investigate the nanoscopic world.