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Advances in Microscopes Enable Nanotechnology Research, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Early scanning devices for matter on the nanoscale came about in the 1980s, including atomic force microscopes (AFMs), scanning tunneling microscopes (STMs) and magnetic force microscopes (MFMs), each measuring different forces at the atomic level.  These microscopes feature appendages that look like tapered arms.  At the tip of the arm might be a single atom.  The microscope senses the minute forces around an atom, much like the needle on a record player reads the groove in a record.  Other tools are also widely used, such as electrochemistry and electron microscopy.  Electrochemistry is the study of chemical bonds and how they are affected by electric currents.  Electron microscopy, otherwise known as transmission electron microscopy (TEM), bombards an object with electrons and registers the reactions on a molecular level in order to find the solid parts and the holes of atomic structures.  All of these methods are immensely useful in understanding things on the atomic level, and their development heralded the creation of tools that could manipulate nanoscale objects in a practical way.


Internet Research Tip:

For descriptions and examples of electron microscopes, see:

1) Electron Microscopy Facility at the web site of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

2) “Scanning Electron Microscope,” at the web site of Purdue University



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