Suspension system for high-performance microscopy results in perfect images | 4/9/2018 | Staff
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It is one of the most accurate measurement instruments available today: the high-performance microscope at the Institute of Applied Physics of TU Wien acquires images of individual atoms by moving the tip of a fine needle tip across a surface. The position of this tip must be controlled with a precision in the range of picometers, i.e., billionths of a millimeter. "This is akin to controlling a needle with the length of the entire diameter of the Earth to a precision of one millimeter," explains Prof. Michael Schmid from the Institute of Applied Physics at TU Wien.

Any kind of vibration makes the microscope unusable, so getting the best performance out of such an instrument is a serious technical challenge. At TU Wien, this was achieved with a special setup that dampens vibrations to a very low level; even vibrations with a very low frequency, which are the most difficult to control. The entire 1 ton instrument hangs on bungee cords, and an electronic control system adjusts the suspension to keep it level. This newly developed system has now been patented.

Research - Groups - Microscopes - Basements - Buildings

"Other research groups operate similar microscopes in separate basements, or in specially designed buildings," says Prof. Ulrike Diebold. She was awarded the 2013 Wittgenstein Prize, and part of her prize money was used for purchasing this high-performance microscope that combines scanning tunneling microscopy with atomic force microscopy. "When I mention at conferences that we run our instrument in a high-rise building in the middle of Vienna, directly above the subway, colleagues are amazed."

"We quickly realized that conventional vibration damping would not be enough in our case," says Michael Schmid. "Commercially available solutions filter high-frequency vibrations, but it is hard to get rid of the low frequencies."

Michael - Schmid - Vibrations - Wind - Building

Michael Schmid first analyzed the vibrations: wind causes the building to oscillate at a frequency of...
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