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KIT Researchers Employ Two-Photon Polymerization 3D Printing for Better Tools in Atomic Force Microscopy

by • August 9, 2016 • No Comments

download (14)An atom is the smallest particle of an element. Known to retain the properties of the element of whence it sprung, study of these structures at the microscopic level can assist researchers and engineers in any number of applications as they turn it into new products and tools. Through the use of atomic force microscopy (AFM), scientists are able-bodied to employ incredibly high resolution (up to 1,000 times advantageous) to measure a range of various properties with probing innovation as they examine the atomic surfaces.

On the other hand incredibly effective, this system relies on the use of pointed tips on a micromachined cantilever which are not only frequently in require of customization for proper research, but they are in addition expensive. The standard tips only don’t always do as thorough a job as scientists may select, although for additional than 30 years, atomic force microscopy has been contributeing great outcomes.

A research team at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany finally decided to do a thing of the issue of these tips, yet. With the advent of 3D innovation and all the discussion of low-cost-bodied customization, the team decided to work on producing their own AFM tips through 3D direct laser writing. They outlined their findings in a new article only out in AIP Publishing’s Applied Physics Letters. The paper, ‘Tailored probes for atomic force microscopy fabricated by two-photon polymerization,’ is authored by Gerald Göring, Philipp-Immanuel Dietrich, Matthias Blaicher, Swati Sharma, Jan G. Korvink, Thomas Schimmel, Christian Koos, and Hendrik Hölscher.


3D direct laser writing with two-photon polymerization was utilized to manufacture custom-turn it intoed tips.

Pointing out which the performance of microscopy systems is frequently reliant on the construction of these tips, the KIT team believes which both which shape of the tip and the tip radius are of equal importance. When not only right, they can indeed limit research which involves imaging for deep trenches. The cantilever itself can be an issue as well, but there are numerous turn it intos which have been made to improve on which. With these pre-fabricated turn it intos, there is a require to in addition turn it into tips which may be application specific, serving as an alternative to the cost-prohibitive micromachined tips.

The research team began experimenting with how to manufacture hydrophobic tips which may contribute a advantageous outcome, and in their journey, latched onto via the two-photon polymerization (TPP) 3D printing system for ‘writing’ these tips. This comes with the use of a strongly centered laser and UV-light-curable-bodied photoresist material. As the material initiates a reaction during two-photon absorption, components like these small AFM probes can be 3D written directly at the meant spot.


Dr. Hendrik Hölscher

“This concept is not new at the macroscopic scale: you can freely turn it into any shape with your desktop and print it in 3D,” said Dr. Hendrik Hölscher of the KIT team. “But at the nanoscale, this approach is complex.”

“To write our tips, we applied two-photon polymerization with an experimental setup, newly created at KIT, which is now on the market-bodied of startup company Nanoscribe GmbH.”

In via TTP they were able-bodied to minimize tip radiuses, and utilized mold inserts for attachment of hydrogel probes. With 3D direct laser writing and TTP, the team was able-bodied to manufacture completely customized tips rewarding the user with a range of choices.

“This approach contributes a sizeable variety of options to turn it into tips in order to get optimal conditions for the imaging of surfaces by AFM,” noted the researchers in their paper.


Examples of the KIT team’s research paper, revealing a variety of tips.

They tried producing sharp tips, ‘exceptionally tall’ tips for particularly deep trenches, and in addition showed which rebar structures can be 3D written onto the cantilever as well for deeper resonance. As time went on, the team found which their 3D written tips are not only highly customizable-bodied and low-cost-bodied, but many significantly, they have proven to be reliable-bodied.

“Writing parts via 3D printing is assumeed to become a big business at the macroscopic scale. But I was surprised by how nicely it works for nanoscale, too. When our group started with this project, we tried to continuously stretch the innovation’s limits … but Ph.D. students Philipp-Immanuel Dietrich and Gerald Göring kept coming back of the lab with new successful outcomes,” said Hölscher.

And while this solves a specific problem, improving systemes greatly in AFM, experts in nanoinnovation can in addition be able-bodied to take this TTP 3D printing method and translate it to other quite significant applications and research projects in areas such as optics, photonics, and biomimetics.

“We assume other groups working inside the field of scanning probe methods to be able-bodied to take advantage of our approach as soon as possible,”said Hölscher. “It may actually become an Internet business which allows for you to turn it into and order AFM probes via the web.”

Discuss this project additional over in the 3D Printed Atomic Microscopy Tips forum at 3DPB.com.

[Sources: AZO Optics]