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EMPIR project research results in the world’s fastest metrological AFM

Circuit board used in the semiconductor industry

Through the work of EMPIR projects scientists have developed the world’s fastest metrological Atomic Force Microscope

The world’s fastest metrological Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) has been developed through the work of EMPIR project Metrology for manufacturing 3D stacked integrated circuits (14IND07, 3D Stack) and its successor project Traceable three-dimensional nanometrology (15SIB09, 3DNano).

Through the work of these two EMPIR projects scientists have developed the world’s fastest metrological AFM. AFM is a very-high-resolution type of scanning probe microscope capable of determining the surface features of specimens at the sub-nano or micrometer level.

The AFM consists of a cantilever with a sharp tip (probe) at its end that ‘feels’ or touches the surface structure of a specimen – rather like a record needle running through a groove and ‘playing’ the music that is encoded by the bumps in the groove.

Featuring a large range, fast and accurate measurement capabilities that allows scan speeds up to 1 mm/s and a measurement volume of 25 mm x 25 mm x 5 mm – a 50-fold increase on current AFM scans speeds – with a measurement uncertainty down to the sub-nanometer level. 

Dr. Gaoliang Dai, project partner and head of the working group for 3D Nanometrology at PTB where the AFM was developed said:

 ‘The AFM can allow a complete scan of complex nanostructures applied in various industries such as semiconductor, nano-optics, nanomaterials, bioscience and so on. The achievements of the EMPIR projects greatly extended the performance of the conventional AFM technique with larger range, better accuracy and higher speed, thus offering unique metrology solutions for industrial challenges.’

The design and characteristics of the new AFM were published in the journal Measurement and Science Technology.
 


This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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Figure: a) A calculated back focal plane image with θ=70°, ϕ=345° and z0 = 60nm. b) A measured back focal plane image of an NV-center. From J. Christinck et al., Appl. Phys. B 126, 161 (2020). Copyright PTB, published with kind permission of PTB
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