Improved AFM Manipulation of Nano-Objects




In traditional atomic force microscope (AFM) based nano-manipulation systems, a cantilever is used as the probe tip to manipulate nano-sized objects. Because of the need for good contact with the object, a "pre-loaded" force must be exerted by the cantilever on the object, making it difficult for an operator to "feel" the object or to adjust and control the force on the object, thereby making it harder to effectively manipulate.


Description of Technology


The sensor in this invention is a cantilever silicon beam with a piezoelectric film deposited in several segments on both sides. The result is a flexible structure with improved ability to manipulate nano-objects. This technology uses an offsetting piezoelectric voltage to keep the cantilever fully extended during the active operation. This makes the tip response faster, increases the imaging speed, and improves the imaging quality. An augmented reality environment is developed in the computer controlling the operation of the sensor, which is installed with a haptic device. By keeping the sensor straight during its sensing of a given substrate surface, it reduces the friction between the sensor tip and the substrate. As a result, the operators can more sensitively feel the force on the sensor caused by contact with nano-objects, thus allowing more reliable real-time manipulation.


Key Benefits

  • Improved nano-sensing: The fully extended cantilever has decreased friction with substrate surfaces, improving sensing and imaging of nano-objects. 
  • Improved nano-manipulation: The combination of haptic feedback with the fully extended cantilever improves the ability to manipulate nano-objects. 
  • Future manufacture of micro-devices: By improving the ability of an operator to sense the force on an object and manipulate it, this technology has promise for the future development of automated manufacturing processes for batch assembly of micro-devices.




Improved nano-manipulators on atomic force microscope (AFM) probe tips. Other potential applications include: nanoassembly of nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), investigation of biological processes at the molecular level, and characterization of various properties of novel materials and structures at the nanoscale.


Patent Status


US 7406859 (issued Aug 5, 2008)
US 2006/0225490 A1 (filed April 6, 2006)




Ning Xi, Jiangbo Zhang, Guangyong Li


Tech ID




Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Raymond Devito
Technology Manager
Michigan State University