Choosing Anti-Vibration Tables for Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)

By AZO Network December 14, 2023

Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a cornerstone in nanotechnology, enabling the imaging of materials at the nanometer scale. This precision tool, instrumental in applications ranging from data storage to lithography, is highly sensitive to mechanical vibrations. These vibrations, originating from the ground or nearby structures, necessitate effective vibration isolation solutions.

The Challenge of Low-Frequency Vibrations

One of the primary challenges in AFM is the isolation of low-frequency vibrations. Traditional methods, such as air tables, often need to improve in mitigating these vibrations effectively.  These vibrations, often below 100 Hz, are commonly encountered in laboratory environments. They originate from various sources, such as building movements, nearby traffic, and HVAC systems. The critical issue with low-frequency vibrations is their pervasive nature and ability to interfere with the nanometer-scale precision required in AFM.

Traditional vibration isolation methods, particularly air tables, have been a standard solution in many laboratory settings. Air tables operate by using a cushion of compressed air to dampen vibrations. While effectively isolating high-frequency vibrations, their performance can diminish at lower frequencies. 

Contrary to popular belief, this inefficiency doesn’t stem from the inherent physical limitations of air as a damping medium. Although many air tables have a natural frequency typically above 2 Hz, higher precision units can effectively attenuate vibrations below this threshold.

In AFM, where imaging and measurements occur at the atomic level, even minuscule vibrations can lead to blurred images and inaccurate data. Low-frequency vibrations are particularly problematic because they can cause slow, continuous drifts in the position of the sample or the AFM tip. This drift can lead to a loss of resolution and clarity in the AFM images, making it challenging to discern the fine details of the sample’s surface.

Given the limitations of traditional systems in isolating low-frequency vibrations, there is a growing need for more advanced solutions in AFM applications. 

Anti-Vibration Solutions for AFM

  1. Vibration Isolation Tables and Platforms: Kinetic Systems offers a range of solutions, including the 9100 Series Workstation for loads up to 1300 lbs and the 1200 Series for heavier loads up to 2800 lbs, catering to various laboratory needs. These systems provide a stable, vibration-free environment essential for high-quality, high-resolution AFM imaging.
  2. Benchtop Platforms: Kinetic Systems’ BenchMate series of tabletop vibration isolation platforms are ideally sized for many microscopes including AFMs. 
  3. Vibration Enclosures: Alongside vibration isolation tables, we also offer solutions like the 2000 Series, which provides adjustable height for ergonomic comfort, and the compact 9200 Series, suitable for smaller setups and various applications, including AFM.

Selecting the Right Anti-Vibration Table from Kinetic Systems

The selection of an anti-vibration table for AFM should consider:

  • Frequency Range: The table should effectively isolate the specific frequency range of vibrations in the environment.
  • Load Capacity: It must support the AFM equipment’s weight while maintaining stability, with options like the 1200 and 9100 Series catering to different load requirements.
  • Performance at Low Frequencies: Given the challenge of low-frequency vibrations, systems like the MK52 Series offer specialized solutions.
  • Compatibility with AFM Setup: The table should fit the specific AFM equipment and the laboratory’s space constraints.

Looking for Anti-Vibration Tables?

Selecting an appropriate anti-vibration table is critical for the optimal functioning of AFM. With our diverse range of products and decades of expertise, Kinetic Systems provides viable solutions for various AFM applications. By carefully considering factors such as frequency range, load capacity, and compatibility with the AFM setup, researchers can significantly enhance the precision and quality of their AFM imaging.

References & Further Reading

  1. Zhai, S., Yu, P., Shi, J., Yang, T., Liu, L. (2021). Systematic Analyses of Passive Vibration Isolation System for Atomic Force Microscopes. In: Liu, XJ., Nie, Z., Yu, J., Xie, F., Song, R. (eds) Intelligent Robotics and Applications. ICIRA 2021. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 13014. Springer, Cham.


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