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Friday, 19 December 2014

ICN2 acquires a Cryostatic Atomic Force Microscope

Apart from surface topography, the new equipment can map electronic, electromechanical and magnetic properties of a material’s surface with nanoscopic lateral resolution, at temperatures as low as 4 K and under magnetic fields as high as 9T. It combines useful features for the Oxide Nanoelectronics Group that recently installed it at ICN2, as well as for other groups interested in fundamental properties of surfaces and 2-D materials.

An Attocube Cryostatic Atomic Force Microscope has recently arrived the Institut Catala de Nanociencia i Nanotecnologia (ICN2), an acquisition led by Prof. Gustau Catalan, ICREA Research Professor and Group Leader at ICN2, and Dr Neus Domingo, Ramón y Cajal Researcher, both from the Oxide Nanoelectronics Group. James Zapata completes the team managing the new equipment. Developed by the German company Attocube, it is a type of microscope that uses a scanning tip to map the topography and physical properties of materials at the nanoscale, with the distinctive feature that it can work at cryogenic temperatures and under high in-situ magnetic fields. The cryostat is a closed-cycle type, so it does not require liquid helium for its operation –helium is a non-renewable and increasingly expensive resource. The AFM has been added to the ICN2 laboratories equipment thanks to Prof. Gustau Catalan’s European Research Council Starting Grant.

The properties of many materials depend on temperature –think for example water becoming ice- and this devices’ cryostat system allows exploring these properties from room temperature down to below 4 K (-269oC) . This low temperature capability will enable the study of quantum phenomena and low-temperature phase transitions. In addition, the in-situ 9T superconducting magnet will enable the study of magnetic and magnetoelectric properties in extreme conditions, all with lateral precision of