The Business Of Building Atomic Force Microscopes

Several companies such as Asylum Research, Veeco, Agilent, Novascan specialize in sales and services of Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). The AFM is a high-resolution imaging and measurement tool that allows researchers to directly view single atoms or molecules that are only a few nanometers in size. Then it produces a three-dimensional map of the sample's surface.

Atomic force microscopes are a significant portion of the $1 billion market for nanotechnology measurement tools. The price of an AFM can cost up to $500,000.

Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is the principal technology that scientists and researchers use to view and manipulate samples at the nanometer scale, which is why it's called the "eyes of nanotechnology."

The AFMs are employed in the semiconductor industry, the materials science field, and the biotechnology industry. AFM life science applications include the imaging of live cells, proteins, and DNA under physiological conditions; single molecule recognition; and the detection of single biomolecular binding interactions.

The AFM has several advantages over other technologies, which makes it a favorite with researchers. The chief difference between AFM and other microscopy techniques is the measure of resolution. While electron and optical microscopes provide a standard two-dimensional horizontal view of a sample's surface, AFM also provides a vertical view. The resulting images show the topography of a sample's surface. While electron microscopes work in a vacuum, most AFM modes work in ambient or liquid environments. AFM does not require any special sample preparation that could damage the sample or prevent its reuse.

The number of applications for AFM has increased since the technology of this kind of microscope was invented in the 1980s and now spans many areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology. AFM provides the ability to view and understand events as they occur at the molecular level. This will increase knowledge of how systems work and lead to advancements in such areas as drug discovery, life science,

The SRI International NanoSense Project team includes (left to right): Anders Rosenquist, Patricia Schank, Alyssa Wise, Tina Stanford. The team designs activities so high school students can understand the science concepts that account for the nanoscale phenomena. (Courtesy Larry Woolf)

materials science, electrochemistry, polymer science, biophysics, and biotechnology.

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