Video-Rate Scanned-Probe Microscope


The video-rate scanned-probe microscope has potential applications for any industry that requires high-resolution images obtained at high-speed. In particular, the semiconductor industry could benefit by using the invention in an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) for dimensional metrology of artifacts such as semiconductor integrated circuits and photomasks. Additionally, the biological sciences field could use the invention to capture dynamic images of molecular and cellular behavior.

Problem Addressed

Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM) technology creates images of surfaces through use of a probe that scans a specimen, such as a semiconductor wafer or a biological sample. To craft a specimen image, SPM involves (a) mechanical movement of the probe to scan the specimen and (b) recording techniques to log probe-surface interaction as a function of position. Scanning a surface through conventional SPM methods, i.e. with AFM, can take a considerable amount of time to achieve high resolution levels.


This invention offers a system to provide high-speed scanning based on AFM techniques. One possible embodiment of the system features a flexure-based scanner driven by an electromagnetic shear-mode actuator. To achieve high scan rates, the flexure mechanism is driven at its resonant frequency. The actuator configuration relies on a stacked-coil design, which allows for the same type of coil to be used for actuation of both the fast-scan axis and the vertical surface-following axis.

The mechanical design for the scanner includes a novel, two degree of freedom (DOF) method that allows each DOF to operate independently.


  • High-resolution imaging
  • High-speed scanning