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Asylum Research Introduces blueDrive™ Photothermal Excitation

Published: Friday, November 08, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, November 08, 2013
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For atomic force microscopy imaging and nanomechanics.

Asylum Research has announced blueDrive photothermal excitation, an option available exclusively for Asylum’s Cypher™ Atomic Force Microscopes (AFMs).

blueDrive makes tapping mode imaging remarkably simple, incredibly stable, and strikingly accurate. blueDrive replaces the conventional piezoacoustic excitation mechanism, instead using a blue laser to directly excite the AFM cantilever photothermally.

This results in an ideal cantilever drive response in both air and liquids, which provides significant performance and ease of use benefits for tapping mode imaging.

“Tapping mode is by far the dominant choice in the world of AFM due to its performance and versatility. blueDrive reinvents tapping mode AFM imaging, making it simpler, more stable and more quantitative,” said Ben Ohler, Director of Marketing at Asylum Research.

Ohler continued, “These benefits extend across the entire range of tapping mode measurements, from topographical imaging in air and liquids to quantitative nanomechanical mapping of viscoelastic properties.”

“The cantilever response in tapping mode provides a remarkably sensitive and rich measure of both conservative and dissipative tip-sample interactions,” explained Jason Cleveland, CEO and co-founder of Asylum Research.

Cleveland continued, “This same depth of information can’t be obtained by force mapping techniques. So rather than abandoning tapping mode, as others have, at Asylum we developed blueDrive to make tapping mode imaging easier and more stable. blueDrive also enhances many of the tools in our NanomechPro™ toolkit, like loss tangent imaging and AM-FM and Contact Resonance Viscoelastic Mapping Modes, making them more robust and more accurate.”

Photothermal cantilever excitation was first used in the early 1990’s to achieve the clean, linear drive response demanded by then newly developed frequency-modulation (FM) imaging techniques.

Since those early days, AFM manufacturers have begun to recognize more and more that the drive response in all AC mode or tapping mode techniques suffers from limitations of piezoacoustic excitation.

Various attempts at so-called “direct-drive” piezoacoustic and magnetic actuation (such as iDrive™) have been put forth as solutions. Lately, some have called for replacing tapping mode outright.

Asylum Research recognized the potential for photothermal excitation to dramatically improve tapping mode imaging. The flexible, modular optical path in the Cypher AFM made it practical to offer this capability commercially for the first time.

blueDrive is available exclusively on the Asylum Research Cypher S and Cypher ES AFMs and is compatible with the full range of tapping mode techniques in air and liquid including topographic imaging, phase imaging, electric force microscopy (EFM), Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM, or surface potential imaging), magnetic force microscopy (MFM), and AM-FM and Contact Resonance Viscoelastic Mapping Modes.

blueDrive makes tapping mode setup exceptionally easy. It works together with the Cypher SpotOn™ click-to-align laser feature and its ideal drive response eliminates cantilever tune uncertainty. It is also completely safe for temperature sensitive samples, with adjustable laser power to ensure the optimal drive power for probes in air and liquid.


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