This section provides an overview for scanning probe microscopes as well as their applications and principles. Also, please take a look at the list of 27 scanning probe microscope manufacturers and their company rankings. Here are the top-ranked scanning probe microscope companies as of December, 2023: 1.Nanosurf AG.
A scanning probe microscope (SPM) is a microscope that uses a needle-sharp probe to observe surface irregularities on the nanometer scale.
It is often used in a high vacuum to clean the sample surface, but can also be used in air. Recently, microscopes that can be used in liquid have also been developed.
There are various types of scanning probe microscopes, including scanning tunneling microscopes (STM) and atomic force microscopes (AFM). The latter of which was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986 for its ability to capture individual atoms and for its significant contribution to the advancement of nanostructure science and technology.
Scanning probe microscopes are used to observe the surface conditions and measure the roughness of semiconductors, glass, liquid crystals, and other materials because they can observe surfaces at the nanometer level, which is extremely fine.
Specific targets for observation include the atomic arrangement of silicon single crystals and phenyl groups in organic compounds. It can also be used to observe and manipulate DNA in biological samples such as microorganisms, bacteria, and biomembranes.
The scanning probe microscopes are new microscopes developed in the 1980s, but its applications are expanding rapidly, with remarkable advances in atomic-level observation technology and the development of models that can measure friction, viscoelasticity, and surface potential. Measurement in liquids is also used in fields such as electrochemistry and biochemistry, enabling measurement of conditions closer to real environments.
This section describes the principles of AFM and STM, two of the most commonly used scanning probe microscopes. The tip of a fine needle-like probe scans the surface of a sample to acquire image and position information. The probe is thin and scans at the atomic level, so it is not suitable for measuring samples with too much unevenness.
STM takes advantage of the fact that the strength of the tunneling current emitted from the tip of a metal probe toward the sample depends sensitively on the thickness of the insulator, the vacuum, and in between. It can accurately measure the local height of the sample surface with a high resolution (the shortest distance between two neighboring points) that allows us to resolve individual atoms on the surface of the material. The probe also allows the observation of atomically scaled unevenness patterns as the probe scans the sample surface.
The probe is made of tungsten or platinum with a pointed tip. When the probe and sample are brought close enough that their electron clouds overlap and a small bias voltage (a voltage used to define the DC operating point for small-signal amplification of an amplifier) is applied, a tunneling current flows due to the tunneling effect.
In STM, the tunneling current is kept constant by moving the metal probe horizontally (X, Y) across the sample surface and by feedback control of the distance between the probe and the sample (Z). Usually, the vertical movement is performed with a piezoelectric element that can control the distance with a precision smaller than the size of a single atom, and the interaction between single atoms is detected. Thus, STM has atomic resolution in three dimensions. A piezoelectric element is a passive device that utilizes the piezoelectric effect, a phenomenon in which a voltage is generated when pressure is applied.
AFM measures the difference in microscopic atomic forces (weak cohesive forces between atoms that are not chemically bonded) between the probe and the sample surface and observes the surface by scanning it. A wide variety of models have been developed to measure frictional force, viscoelasticity, dielectric constant, and surface potential by applying AFM technology.
A probe attached to the end of a cantilever (cantilever) is brought into contact with the surface of a sample by a very small force. The distance (Z) between the probe and the sample is feedback-controlled to maintain a constant force (deflection) on the cantilever while scanning horizontally (X, Y) to obtain an image of the surface topography.
AFM and SPM, which are typical examples of scanning probe microscopes, both use probes, but they differ in type. Furthermore, there are many types of AFM alone, including materials and lengths, and it is important to select one that best suits the object to be measured.
In addition to the contact mode described in the principle, AFM also has a tapping mode, which is used to measure fragile organic samples and uses a dedicated probe. The probe is a consumable item and must be replaced by the user.
*Including some distributors, etc.
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Angstrom Advanced Inc was founded in 2007 in Boston, MA, USA, and is a manufacturer of scientific instruments and Hydrogen plants for academic and industrial applications. The company provides X-ray diffractometers, lab gas generators, atomic force microscopes, hydrogen-generating plants, and scanning probe microscopes that have applications in renewable energy, nuclear power, atomic research, aerospace, and chemical energy sectors. They have received ISO 9001:2015 certification and were awarded in the arena of optical Instruments and Apparatus in the year 2010.
Bruker, founded in 1960 and based in Billerica, Massachusetts, is a manufacturer and distributor of scientific instruments and analytical and diagnostic solutions. The company's product range includes analyzers, microscopes, and imaging solutions, which have applications in fields such as life science research, cell biology, and microbiology. In 1969, the company developed the world's first FT-NMR spectrometer system, enabling broadband proton decoupling. In 1997, it further expanded its capabilities by acquiring the analytical X-ray division of Siemens AG. The company holds ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 certifications, and its products are available for sale worldwide.
Hitachi High Tech was established in April 1947 and operates in 26 countries with products and services ranging from semiconductor manufacturing equipment and Medical and Biosystems to Analytical Systems and Manufacturing related equipment and solutions. A unique state-of-the-art technology company with two functions as a manufacturer and a trading company with the motto of "Tackling social issues," the Hitachi High-Tech Group aspires to be a company that pursues not only economic value, such as revenue and profit, but also provides social and environmental value by contributing to resolving social issues through its business activities, including products and services. They also provide one-stop services, such as evaluations and analysis at a global level.
Mad City Labs, Inc. was established in 1998 and is headquartered in Madison, WI, and is a manufacturer of flexure-based piezo nanopositioning systems capable of sub-nanometer positioning resolution. The portfolio of the company includes nanopositioning systems, micropositioning systems, single-molecule microscopy, general microscopy, atomic force microscopy, near-field scanning optical microscopy, and many more. The nanopositioning systems of the company move and maintain the position of objects with sub-nanometer precision and high stability. Applications for nanopositioners include super-resolution microscopy, high-speed confocal imaging, AFM, NSOM, SPM, etc.
Nanosurf AG, established in 1997, is a manufacturer and supplier of STM nano-microscopes for both commercial and academic uses, headquartered in Liestal, Switzerland. The company employs game-changing technology to assist in scanning probes and brought advancement in atomic force microscopes. They manufacture AFM-based single-cell and nanomanipulation tools, compact AFM systems, custom AFM systems for research, and STMs for educational purposes. These nano microscopes are used in multiple industries such as healthcare, chemical, nanoscience, and electronics sectors. The products are precise in performance and can handle samples of any size, shape, or weight through custom integrations.
Park Systems, located in Suwon, Korea, and established in 1997, is a manufacturer of atomic force microscopy systems for nanoscale engineering, scientific research, quality assurance, and semiconductor production. The company offers products such as AFM for research and surface analysis for thin film characterization, active vibration isolation, in-line metrology, and software. The products are used in the manufacturing, electrical & electronics, life science, nanotechnology, and material industries. It provides service by performing system maintenance and repair. Park Systems bought Accurion GmbH, a German business that makes imaging spectroscopic ellipsometers and active vibration isolations, in 2022.
HORIBA RADIO LABORATORY was established in Japan in 1945 and has spent the last three-quarters of a century growing as an R&D company and engaged in international operations. HORIBA Scientific offers 200 years of experience developing high-performance scientific instruments and analytical solutions. The HORIBA Group of worldwide companies provides an extensive array of instruments and systems for applications ranging from automotive R&D, process and environmental monitoring, in-vitro medical diagnostics, semiconductor manufacturing, and metrology to a broad range of scientific R&D and QC measurements. Operating in Asia, Europe, and North and South America, HORIBA scientific develops solutions that go beyond just products.
JEOL Ltd. is a Japanese developer and manufacturer of scientific and industrial equipment originally established in 1949 as Japan Electron Optics Laboratory Co., Ltd. before its rebrand to JEOL Ltd. in 1961. Based in Akishima, Tokyo, the company produces various spectrometers, electron microscopes, electron beam lithography systems (EBLs), and thin-film formation equipment (TFFE). They also manufacture equipment for clinical testing or analysis, such as clinical chemistry analyzers and rack handlers. JEOL has operations and subsidiaries in three continents, including JEOL (Europe) B.V., JEOL USA Inc. and JEOL (UK) Ltd.
Semilab Semiconductor Physics Laboratory Co. Ltd. is a manufacturer of metrology equipment since 1989 having its Corporate headquarters in Budapest, Hungary. The company provides equipment for specific industries and their related applications along with patent technology. Such as they serve the semiconductor industry by providing machines and equipment for various applications like Ion Implant Monitoring, Contamination analysis, and much more. Similarly, the Display and the Photovoltaic industry benefit from different Laboratory applications, Sheet Resistance measurements, and the Research and Development processes within the same sectors are also carried out.
Shimadzu Corporation, founded in 1875 and based in Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, is a Japanese manufacturer and supplier specializing in precision instruments, measuring instruments, and medical equipment. The company's products and solutions cater to various industries, including pharmaceuticals, environmental, and research institutions. For instance, Shimadzu produces analytical and measuring instruments like chromatographs and spectrometers, utilized for quality control as well as research and development in the environment, life science, and pharmaceutical fields. Furthermore, Shimadzu's medical products and systems aid in early disease detection and treatment, particularly for conditions like cancer. Additionally, Shimadzu supports manufacturing activities by providing vacuum equipment and industrial machinery.
Oxford Instruments Asylum Research, established in 1999 in Santa Barbara, California, USA, is a manufacturer of atomic force microscopy (AFM) solutions for research and industrial uses. The company offers various optimal-performance AFM systems for nanoscale imaging and characterization, including Cypher, MFP-3D, and Jupiter systems, which are essential tools for material science, nanotechnology, life sciences, and other research areas. These systems provide topographical, mechanical, and electrical characterization at the nanoscale. The benefits include sub-nanometer resolution, advanced imaging modes, quantitative analysis, and compatibility. These systems empower researchers to explore nanomaterials and understand surface properties in fields such as material science, semiconductors, and biology.
CAMECA Instruments, Inc., founded in 1953 and headquartered in Wisconsin, United States, operates as a manufacturer specializing in scientific instruments. The company provides a wide range of products and services, including electron microprobes, ion microprobes, and secondary ion mass spectrometers (SIMS). It caters to industries such as materials science, geology, nuclear forensics, and semiconductor manufacturing. The company's cutting-edge scientific instruments find applications in elemental and isotopic analysis, enabling research and quality control in different fields.
UNISOKU Co., Ltd., founded in November 1974 in Osaka, Japan, is a developer and manufacturer of scanning probe microscopes, spectrometers, and other research instruments. The company, a division of Tokyo Instruments, Inc., offers Kinetic Spectroscopy Systems and Multi-Channel Spectrophotometers, using flash lamps and pulse lasers, as well as specific spectroscopy systems using high-sensitive light detectors. Applications include research of charge separation and electron transfer; observation of Excimer Generation; and analysis of Artificial Photosynthesis. In March 2014, the company was listed among the “Global Niche Top 100 Companies” by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
attocube systems AG was established in 2001 in Haar, Germany, as a manufacturer and distributor of spatial nano-positioning systems and complete probing tools. The company's product list consists of the atto3DR, neaSCOPE, attoTMS, and attoDRY series, among others. The products find applications in various fields, including motion analysis, nanoscale research, precision motion control, and quality assurance and control, contributing to accuracy and precision in scientific analysis and industrial processes. The company serves various industries, including surface science, laboratory testing, infrastructure, mesoscopic physics, materials science, and nanoprecise positioning.
Scienta Omicron, established as a supplier and distributor of cutting-edge scientific instruments, was founded in 1983 in Germany. The company specializes in providing scientific tools for researchers and institutions worldwide, and its product range covers a wide spectrum, including advanced surface analysis systems, electron spectrometers, scanning probe microscopes, and sophisticated deposition systems. Notable offerings encompass X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and Auger electron spectroscopy (AES) systems, used for examining material surfaces at the atomic and molecular levels. Its products are used across fields like materials science, nanotechnology, surface physics, and more, catering to academic, industrial, and laboratory research.
Miramar Communications Ltd, based in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom is a service provider offering B2B marketing services founded in 2008. The company offers various marketing services including partner marketing, content creation, digital marketing, ABM/ABX, and campaigns such as SEO and ABM. Their services include branding, channel promotion, events, seminars, and social and Integrated campaigns The company also offers digital design and development and martech services for websites, mobile & PC apps, and eCommerce platforms.
Tokyo Instruments, Inc., established in 1981, and headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, is a manufacturer of opto-electronics products and systems. The company offers a wide range of products, including laser processing machines, aligning systems, photodetectors, analyzers for photoelectron spectroscopy, and spectroscopy array detectors. Also offered are high-speed, high-sensitivity cameras in UV to IR, and photon detectors or counters. The company's product families consist of the Nanofinder series of 3D Laser Raman Microspectroscopy systems and the iDus Workhorse laboratory and OEM CCD platform for low-light spectroscopy.