MNEMS probes for high-speed AFM

Increasing the scan rate of atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been an increasingly important challenge of the scientific and industrial communities. However still today, performing routine and user-friendly AFM experiments at video rate remains an unreachable goal in most cases. The conventional AFM probe based on a micro-sized vibrating cantilever is the major obstacle that currently limits the further development of high-speed AFMs. In this context, the project OLYMPIA aims at introducing a technological breakthrough in the field of AFM probes. The driving idea timely builds on the recent convergences of the fields of micro/nanosystems (MNEMS) technologies. OLYMPIA targets the proof of an innovative concept of AFM probes featuring:

(i) Unprecedented vibration resolution in AFM down to 10-16 m/√Hz, enabled by an innovative detection scheme,

(ii) Probe’s mechanical resonance frequency in the 100 MHz range;

(iii) Force resolution at the best level for high-speed imaging of nano-bio-systems.

The project OLYMPIA relies on a well-balanced consortium involving 4 laboratories: LAAS-CNRS in Toulouse, CEA-LETI in Grenoble, MPQ-Univ. Paris Diderot-CNRS in Paris and IEMN-CNRS in Lille. The 4 technical tasks deal with: (i) AFM probe specifications and system architecture, (ii) modeling, design and optimization of the devices, (iii) probe fabrication, and (iv) probe integration in AFM and proof-of-concept experiments. Thanks to these achievements, the OLYMPIA project will gain high visibility and will highly impact the scientific communities of MNEMS and AFM. In the longer term, the new class of AFM probes developed in OLYMPIA is envisioned to access the dynamical behaviour of systems at nanoscale. The expectation is particularly strong in the field of nanobiology where understanding the relationship between the conformational changes of biomolecules and their biological functions is of fundamental interest but remains a challenge today.

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