A new paradigm to drive NC-AFM towards fast imaging

Non-contact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) is the highest-resolution imaging technique that exists today. Like every imaging approach, it is bound by a speed-spatial resolution trade off: in general, a precise detection takes time, and a fast detection is noisy. In particular, the force detection (implicitly in Hz) is done by a probe driven at resonance, which must oscillate "cleanly" (ie. have a high quality factor) to have a high spectral, and hence spatial resolution. This implies that the probe takes a long time to reach equilibrium, when passing from one pixel to the next. Let 𝜏 be of the time to detect a pixel (ms), and 𝛿F be the implicit force error (Hz), then a figure of merit of the detection is 1/(𝜏𝛿F). It is a hard upper boundary on the types of experiments possible, and a hard lower boundary on their cost.

With current instruments based on PLL, this figure is approximately 1/(𝜏𝛿F) = 0.3. Our novel paradigm, with a very different approach to stimulus and detection, is based on the ESE protocol, achieving super-fast equilibration. We radically improve the possibilities of NC-AFM, achieving a figure of at least 1/(𝜏𝛿F) = 1.9. In other words, we offer a six-fold improvement to the state of the art.


PULSALYS is looking for industrial partners for the commercialization of the technology.

Reference: FAST-AFM [D01794]

Key words: Engineered excitation, super-fast scanning

TRL: 4


Applications :

Target Markets :

  • Non-contact Atomic Force Microscopy
  • Room-temperature imaging
  • Cryogenic environnement imaging
  • High-speed, high-resolution imaging
  • All users of NC-AFM
Competitive Advantages :

Intellectual Property :

  • For identical experimental parameters (cantilever, temperature, amplitude), 5 to 10 times faster than state-of-the-art
  • Higher velocity reduces thermal drift artifacts
  • No need to change existing probes, probe holders, sample holders, vacuum chambers, or piezo elements of the microscope.
  • No need to use a PLL unit
  • Working on a patent registration




Chargée de développement

Pôle Développement Economique

Tél. : +33 (0) 4 26 23 56 93