How is a scanning probe microscope useful in nanotechnology research and in nanofabrication

The technique is primarily used to map surface forces at the nanoscale, but the SPM probes have sometimes been used to move objects such as atoms or "write" with molecular "ink."

How is the scanning probe microscope different from an atomic force microscope?

An atomic force microscope can be considered one type of scanning probe microscopy. Several other types of SPM exist (see: http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Scanning_probe_microscopy)

How did you and other researchers conceptualize the idea of building a model of a Scanning Probe Microscope from LEGO*® building blocks? Did you try other building materials as well?

A number of people have used different materials to demonstrate SPM, including wooden sticks, hacksaw blades, and flexible sheet refrigerator magnets. We opted to use LEGO® bricks for a number of reasons.

First, many people are familiar with LEGO® bricks, and most models can be built with a level of mechanical sophistication that does not intimidate or frustrate the user. Second, LEGO® bricks typically have many connection points, allowing tremendous flexibility in the structures that can be built. A set of bricks can be used to model structures of matter and the techniques used to study them.

You have taught students how to build a scanning probe microscope model from LEGO®®blocks. How old were the students who built the LEGO® model and how long did it take them to build it? Were there any problems in building the model?

Eighth graders as well as graduate students have built various creations of models. The simplest models can be built within a half hour. More complicated models take longer to build. The most challenging part of building the model appears to be mounting the laser pointer.

If a teacher or student wanted to construct the LEGO®® model of the scanning probe microscope, whom should they contact for directions and for a list of materials?

Most of the directions for making the model are in the online book, "Exploring the Nanoworld with LEGO*® Bricks," which can be accessed from http://mrsec.wisc.edu/Edetc/LEGO/index.html. My contact information given on the site is:

Dr. Dean Campbell, Department of Chemistry, Bradley University, 1501 West Bradley University, Peoria, IL 61625. Phone: (309) 677-3029. E-mail: [email protected]

What would your advice be to young people who would be interested in a career in nanotechnology? What are some of the opportunities in this field?

Nanotechnology is a hot field now and will likely remain so for some time. Nanotechnology is also a very interdisciplinary field. Successful individuals will need to have a breadth of knowledge in mathematics, physical sciences and biology, as well as the ability to communicate effectively with others.

What are some of the benefits of nanotechnology and what would be some of the risks?

Many technologies stand to benefit from nanotechnology, ranging from computers to medicine to sunscreen. There are some concerns that nanoscale chemicals will have different properties and therefore different toxicities than bulk materials. Therefore, nanostructures must be carefully assessed for potential unexpected hazards.

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