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Precise 3D positioning of objects in the nano-scale

A three dimensional interferometric position measuring system has been developed by a German university that now seeks industrial partners for production and commercialisation.
Precise 3D positioning of objects in the nano-scale
Exact positioning of objects in the nano-scale is essential in areas where piezo-actuators are used, for example in scanning microscopy, laser tuning and holography. Piezoelectric devices are materials that expand or contract in the presence of a voltage gradient and make it possible to create three-dimensional positioning devices. However, these measuring systems are difficult to establish and lack precision. In addition, robustness is a problem. The new three-dimensional interferometric position measuring system (TIPM) in question has been implemented in atomic force microscopy, AFM, and has yielded accurate, reproducible results.

The system is based on interferometry, that is, it uses the interaction of electromagnetic waves to determine the exact position of the object in question. One laser is used to generate three electromagnetic waves, which although connected, have different propagation directions. In this way an intensity distribution occurs where the waves intersect, creating a 3D optical reference grid. A detector is attached to the object under observation, and as it moves in any direction the intensity gradient, and therefore the position, is recorded by the detector.

The TIPM system allows the on-line calibration and navigation of 3D systems. It can be easily adapted and incorporated into existing ones at low cost. It has been successfully applied in atomic force microscopy, where surfaces are imaged in atomic resolution and force is measured in the nano-newton scale. Measurements are high resolution, precise and have excellent reliability. It can also be used in the area of electron beam lithography, where sub-micron and nano-scale features are fabricated. Other possible applications include material working and metrology.
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