New Ztherm for Asylum's MFP-3D and Cypher AFMs Wins R+D100 Award for 2010

Published on July 14, 2010 at 2:47 AM

Asylum Research, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and R+D Magazine have announced that the new Ztherm Modulated Local Thermal Analysis Option for Asylum's MFP-3D™ and Cypher™ Atomic Force Microscopes (AFMs) has been awarded the R+D100 Award for 2010.

Ztherm provides highly localized heating with sensitivity to =10-22 liter (sub-zeptoliter) materials property changes, more than an order of magnitude improvement in volume over that previously available with commercial systems. A standing problem with existing AFM-based thermal analysis systems is thermally induced bending of the cantilever that results in spurious deflection signals and variable loads being applied during heating. Asylum and ORNL have developed a patent-pending cantilever compensation and control solution that corrects this problem, providing constant-load detection of thermally induced melting (Tm), phase transitions (Tg) and other morphological and compliance effects for materials studies and material identification – with 10nm spatial resolution and ultimately at the single molecule level. The R&D100 Award will be presented to the Asylum Research/ORNL team at the awards banquet in Orlando in November 2010.

“The recent results I've seen from Asylum's Ztherm Modulated Thermal Analysis are the highest resolution thermal measurements by anyone to date. Truly impressive,” commented Dr. William King, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

In addition to standard thermal analysis capabilities, the Ztherm package can also be used to evaluate contact stiffness and dissipation as a function of temperature with advanced techniques such Dual AC Resonance Tracking (DART) and Band Excitation (BE). The contact stiffness and dissipation – measured at the cantilever resonance – are much more sensitive to temperature dependent properties, including surface melting and transition temperatures, than static deflection of the probe as is conventionally measured in AFM. In addition, integrated piezo actuation allows high resolution AC imaging of samples for surface topographical mapping before and after thermal measurements.

Dr. Roger Proksch, Asylum Research President commented, “Our new Ztherm option is the most powerful thermal analysis package on the market today, with sensitivity, resolution and capabilities beyond anything else available. We believe Ztherm will enhance existing research avenues and open up new directions for analysis of thermal effects and material identification on scales previously impossible.”

Said Dr. Maxim Nikiforov of ORNL, “Ztherm's unprecedented resolution opens new horizons for the development of new types of plastics, as well as better understanding of failure mechanisms for existing materials. It has already proven useful for many types of materials ranging from bio-polymers to electrically-active polymers, and is applicable across many industries, including healthcare, energy materials, construction materials and others.”

Added Dr. Jason Cleveland, Asylum Research CEO, “For the third year in a row, our research and development efforts have been validated by the R&D100 Award. We are proud and gratified to have been acknowledged once again for our technology leadership in scanning probe and atomic force microscopy.”

Heat interrogation of polymers: from nanoscale to macroscale

Ztherm is an atomic force microscope-based technique which measures temperature-dependent mechanical properties of the sample with 10nm spatial resolution, in addition to mapping surface topography. Ztherm integrates a nanoscale heat source with a new detection method that lowers the probed volume of material to the zepto-liter level (10-24 liters). The inset figures show nanoscale measurements made with Ztherm of a phase transition in a SEBS copolymer before (top) and after (bottom) Ztherm measurements. Scale the experiment up one million times (soldering iron + egg will do the trick) and the human eye can detect a polymer phase transition (denaturation of bio-polymer albumen which is the main component of egg white) changes in the material after heating.

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