Microscope development project for sub-surface imaging at the nanoscale (Spa)

IBEC’s Nanoscale Bioelectrical Characterization group, headed by Gabriel Gomila, is a partner in a new EU-funded collaborative project set to develop a new tool for non-destructive 3D nanoscale structural characterization, the Volumetric Scanning Microwave Microscope (VSMM).

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‘Volumetric Scanning Microwave Microscopy Analytical and Research Tool for Nanotechnology’ (V-SMMART Nano), which officially began on 1st March, involves three research and three industry partners from the UK, France, Spain, Austria, Italy and Germany. They’ll work together to fully develop the new microscope ready for commercial exploitation within the three-year duration of the project.

“Effective tools and methodologies for sub-surface imaging at the nanometre scale are essential to explore the structural and chemical composition of biological materials and other systems,” explains Gabriel. “Doing this will enable us to better understand real-life systems such as nanoparticle drug uptake in biological cells, domain structure in ferroelectric devices, or trap mechanisms in solar cells.”

The VSMM will probe in situ the reflection and transmission of microwaves from and through material surfaces, measuring complex permittivity, conductivity, resistivity and magnetic response. The microscope will be easy to use and optimised for accurate measurements from the start. In addition, it will use SPM cantilever-probe technology to ensure compatibility with a full range of other SPM-based tools.

“The project will greatly benefit SMEs in Europe, both for the market for SPM probe tips and ancillary equipment for the microscope, and as end-users,” says Gabriel. His group at IBEC will contribute their expertise in the application of 3D tomographic imaging in living cells to the project, as well as providing the technology to perform initial validation measurements and cantilever testing.