Asylum Research Quantifies the “Last Axis” in Atomic Force Microscopy

February 8, 2018 (Santa Barbara, CA) - Oxford Instruments Asylum Research announces their development of an interferometric displacement sensor (IDS) that provides a direct measure of AFM cantilever displacement. The IDS interfaces the existing optical system of the Asylum Research Cypher AFM with an external laser Doppler vibrometer. It does not replace the standard laser and detector; rather, it provides a complementary detection method that measures the true tip displacement.

Asylum Research pioneered the introduction of ultra-low noise position sensors as a standard feature on every AFM. Somewhat ironically, though, an equally critical measurement axis, the cantilever displacement, has been neglected. Asylum AFMs and virtually all other commercial AFMs still rely on an indirect measure of cantilever displacement. The optical beam deflection (or “beam bounce”) technique, in which a laser is reflected off the back of the AFM cantilever and on to a position sensitive detector, is relatively easy to implement and impressively low-noise across a wide dynamic range. However, it is fundamentally proportional to changes in the angle of the cantilever and is therefore only indirectly related to the tip displacement. While this measurement technique works remarkably well for some AFM imaging modes, in others, such as piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM), it is known to contribute to significant errors in quantitative analysis.

“Asylum Research was founded on the principle that through careful design, atomic force microscopy can be subject to fewer artifacts and give more quantitative results,” said Asylum Research president Dr. Roger Proksch. “One of Asylum’s core technical strengths is in supporting the fields of piezoelectric and ferroelectric materials research. We’re therefore especially proud to be reinforcing this capability, giving our customers a new and exciting path to more accurate electromechanical measurements. However, we believe the IDS option will also prove useful in characterizing and advancing techniques for nanomechanics, as well as improving our fundamental understanding of the capabilities and possibilities of AFM.”

The module does not interfere with the normal functions of the AFM; it can therefore be used as a secondary channel of information during regular AFM measurements, or it can replace the existing OBD channel for any dynamic imaging mode. A data sheet that further explains the theory, operation, and benefits can be downloaded at

About Oxford Instruments Asylum Research

Oxford Instruments Asylum Research is the technology leader in atomic force microscopy for both materials and bioscience research. Asylum Research AFMs are widely used by both academic and industrial researchers for characterizing samples from diverse fields spanning material science, polymers, thin films, energy research, and biophysics. In addition to routine imaging of sample topography and roughness, Asylum Research AFMs also offer unmatched resolution and quantitative measurement capability for nanoelectrical, nanomechanical and electromechanical characterization. Recent advances have made these measurements far simpler and more automated for increased consistency and productivity. Its Cypher™ and MFP-3D™ AFM product lines span a wide range of performance and budgets. Asylum Research also offers its exclusive SurfRider™ AFM probes among a comprehensive selection of AFM probes, accessories, and consumables. Sales, applications and service offices are located in the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, France, India, China and Taiwan, with distributor offices in other global regions.

About Oxford Instruments plc

Oxford Instruments designs, supplies and supports high-technology tools and systems with a focus on research and industrial applications. Innovation has been the driving force behind Oxford Instruments' growth and success for over 50 years, and its strategy is to effect the successful commercialisation of these ideas by bringing them to market in a timely and customer-focused fashion.

The first technology business to be spun out from Oxford University, Oxford Instruments objective is to be the leading provider of new generation tools and systems for the research and industrial sectors with a focus on nanotechnology. Its key market sectors include nano-fabrication and nano-materials. The company’s strategy is to expand the business into the life sciences arena, where nanotechnology and biotechnology intersect.

This involves the combination of core technologies in areas such as low temperature, high magnetic field and ultra high vacuum environments; Nuclear Magnetic Resonance; x-ray, electron, laser and optical based metrology; atomic force microscopy; optical imaging; advanced growth, deposition and etching.

Oxford Instruments aims to pursue responsible development and deeper understanding of our world through science and technology. Its products, expertise, and ideas address global issues such as energy, environment, security and health.

For further information please contact:

Terry Mehr, Manager, Marketing Communications , 805-696-6466,

More from Electrical Equipment & Systems

All Topics