Next generation Scanning Tunneling Microscope soon to become a reality…

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek did not invent the optical microscope, nor did he discover the cell. Instead, by exploiting the technology of glassblowing, he was able to push optical microscopy to unthinkable spatial resolutions in the late 1600s. In doing so, he not only discovered single cell organisms, but he could also see them propel themselves through water and interact with them, discoveries deemed so “impossible” that they were met with great skepticism by the Royal Society of London.

The scanning tunneling microscope (STM) is the modern successor to the optical microscopes of van Leeuwenhoek, capable of examining and interacting with solid matter on atomic length scales. Separately, high speed measurements have been used to probe collections of atoms or electrons quickly enough to see their dynamics. With the help from a grant from the Keck Foundation, three researchers at Princeton University are bringing recent advancements in high-speed electronic measurements to STM, merging the incredible time resolution of the former with the unparalleled spatial resolution of the latter. Just as van Leeuwenhoek was able to do what was thought impossible and interact with self-propelling “animalcules” in water, this collaborative merging of these new technologies would allow scientists to interact with the quantum dynamics of a single atom in its native environment, a solid state material, for the first time.

Figure 1. Design work for the next-generation STM nears completion at Princeton

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