Del Mar Photonics - DNA imaging with AFM Heron

AFM HERON was presented at Photonics West 2009 exhibition

Del Mar Photonics

AFM HERON - sample quotes and specs

Del Mar Photonics at Photonics West 2009 - few moments from the show floor



For the recent years Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM) has proved to be the extremely successful technique for characterization of different nano-sized objects. SPM plays the important role in the outburst of scientific and commercial activities defined by the term “nanotechnology”. As a great number of applications for the SPM-based research are becoming more and more diverse and complex, new challenges and demands arise for the SPM instrumentation. Unfortunately, still the adjustment of the most modern SPMs is complicated, time consuming and very much operator-dependant. This drawback leads to poor reproducibility of the instrument settings and consequently to poorly reproducible results.

New, fully motorized AFM HERON (HERO of Nanotechnology) which allows to perfectly
align a cantilever, laser and photodiode by just one click on a command button. The scanning
settings and landing parameters are also automated that allows to avoid any time consuming
adjustment operations, thus leaving more time to researcher for designing the experiment and
performing more accurate measurements.

Figure 1. Automated, one-click laser-to-cantilever alignment.


Figure 2. Distribution map of the cantilever's oscillation at the fundamental (left) and second (right) modes.

Another unique feature of AFM HERON is the capability to map the distribution of the oscillation amplitude along the cantilever. After the map is acquired, operator can choose the most appropriate position of the laser spot on the cantilever for his measurements. This becomes especially important when a cantilever is excited at higher modes such as in the Figure 2.

The complete automation of the AFM HERON setup allows researchers to avoid time consuming and tiresome routine adjustments and concentrate on the experiment itself, measurements and result interpretation.

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Due to the combination of the low-noise registration system, unique scanner, advanced electronics and smart scanning procedures that incorporated over 100 years of combined SPM research experience, with AFM HERON one can perform unique measurements which are extremely difficult, if possible at all, using other SPM instruments.


Figure 3. 130 nm Ag nanoparticles immobilized on the metal surface, 3.6x3.6 um scan.

Extra-safe and at the same time fast landing procedure makes it possible to protect even very sharp tips from any possible damage. Due to the availability of the true non-contact scanning mode one can measure even the most fragile and mechanically sensitive samples. Unique smart scanning procedures allow to obtain high quality images on very challenging objects like 130 nm Ag nanoparticles or modern high density hard drive disks.



Figure 4. High resolution MFM image of Seagate Barracuda 750Gb Hard Drive, ST3750640AS.

One of the unique features of HERON AFM is its scanner. Due to our innovative design and flexure guide technology, this scanner with built-in capacitive sensors shows the unmatched performance characteristics (significant scanner natural frequencies come up to 20-30 kHz in XY and up to 35-40 kHz in Z) allowing a significant increase in the scanning speed without sacrificing the image quality. The scanner allows high scan rate imaging of samples with coarse topography features. The image of the 540 nm calibration grating (Fig. 5) is obtained at 10Hz line frequency.

The advanced digital controller equipped with the optimized scanning control algorithms allows to decrease the phase lag, overshooting and ringing during the scanning process, making sure that the quality of the image remains the same even at higher speeds.

Figure 5. Silicon calibration grating.

The novel proprietary MFM imaging mode allows the user to obtain the magnetic profile of the sample at outstanding speed. This MFM image of the magnetic structure of surface domains in Yttrium Iron Garnet (YIG) film was acquired at 10 Hz scan rate.

Figure 6. Magnetic structure of surface domains in Yttrium Iron Garnet (YIG) film.

Atomic resolution with 100x100 micron scanner

Due to very well designed and calculated construction of the AFM and the scanner, HERON AFM features outstanding mechanical stability, which allows the user to get atomic resolution images with the same 100 micron scanner and at the same time to produce high quality images without vibration isolation tables. This is of extreme importance for the integration of the AFM with the optical facilities on top of an optical table.


Figure 7. Atomic resolution on HOPG obtained with the 100 micron scanner. AFM contact mode, 32 angstrom scan.

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DNA sample imaged with DLC supersharp cantilever.
1x1µm scan, 512 dpl, 1Hz scan rate.
Both single- and double- stranded DNAs are present on the sample. The twist structure of the double-stranded DNAs can be observed even in this relatively large scan.



DNA-Protein complex sample imaged with Si fpN01S cantilever.
1x1µm scan, 512 dpl, 1Hz scan rate. Roughness analysis along the line reveals that the surface of this sample is relatively rough, R3z being equal to 0.48 nm


DNA related presentations at SPIE Defense and Security Sensing


Where Del Mar Photonics product's names come from?

Del Mar means 'by the sea", and Photonics is all about optical waves. So we decided  to choose terms popular in surfing and sailing communities. Our femtosecond lasers, amplifiers and systems are named after popular surf breaks around the world, and many other products names after sailing and nautical terms.

HERON AFM is named after after beautiful great blue heron shown below in the surf at Torrey Pines Beach