Atomic force microscopy

This page provides some details about an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) that I built a couple years ago as the basis of a new undergraduate control lab. The microscope itself is a very simple instrument, built almost entirely from off-the-shelf components and can be constructed in a day or so by a non-expert. It’s not accurate enough to take commercial-level scans, but it does well enough to make interesting images for undergrads (see slideshow below). Details of the AFM are available in the paper below entitled “A Cost-Effective Atomic Force Microscope for Undergraduate Control Laboratories”. An idea of some of the experiments that can be done with it can be gotten from the lab script, which is also below “Engineering Tripos Part IIA, Project 15: Atomic Force Microscope”.

The microscope’s been in use for the last two years at the university of Cambridge, and for one year at ETH in Zurich. If you are interested in constructing one for yourself, then I’m more than happy to help you. The parts cost approx 15,000 USD (although cheaper substitutions are possible) and there is only one custom component that’s required. I can either give you CAD drawings, or just ship you a pre-made one (it’s very simple and cheap). Please feel free to contact me with any questions.


Some example scans taken with the microscope.

AFM Publications

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