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Interview: Martin Rohmer, Scienta Omicron

Hello Martin, Scienta Omicron launched 4 new products recently at the DPG meeting in Dresden. Please tell us, what's new?

Yes, we have 3 new Scanning Probe Microscopes (SPM) and one new SPM controller:

First, we launched the third generation of our low-temperature STM which now offers extremely low drift and highest stability for ideal performance below 5 K. The spectroscopy resolution is also much-improved and we have included QPlus AFM.

Second is the new Fermi DryCoolTM SPM with infinite measurement time and convenient cooling between 10 K and 400 K, without the use of cryogenic liquid. The users can perform QPlus AFM and STM with the Fermi DryCoolTM.

The third new SPM is the TESLA JT SPM, a Joule-Thompson cooled low-temperature microscope for advanced imaging and spectroscopy below T = 1.4 K. STM and QPlus AFM measurements can be carried out in magnetic fields up to BZ = 3 T.

In addition, we launched the new Matrix 4 SPM Controller that contains an AFM PLL powered by Zurich Instruments.

At which point in time did you start to consider integrating Zurich Instruments technology instead of doing your own development?

The advent of the MFLI lock-in amplifier about 2 years ago coincided with the time when we were looking for a new QPlus solution. We quickly realized the potential to achieve our goal with considerably less effort. The spectacular noise performance and frequency range of up to 5 MHz provided a much better fit to our requirements than your previous high-frequency products. Also, the analog and digital interfacing capabilities were key considerations from the beginning. Combining the best digital signal processing with the best QPlus microscopes makes a perfect match for our customers.

At Zurich Instruments we have designed the MFLI to be ready for integration as a subsystem: we have no physical buttons on the instrument, we added plenty of DIOs and provide a rich API. How did these features help you to create a compelling SPM controller?

First of all, using the 4 Auxiliary Outputs for analog interfacing means that the MFLI can be integrated into a setup within a couple of minutes. That allowed us to do a lot of initial testing regarding performance and using it for different application modes. We quickly found out that most of our application modes are supported if the MF-MD Multi-Demodulator Option and the MF-PID Quad PID/PLL Option are installed.

However, from this proof of principle to full integration we still had a long way to go. The most important step was the software integration, in particular fetching the measurement data directly in the digital domain and achieving full measurement automation with our well established SPM Control. With the current release, you can set up the oscillation of probes on a running SPM experiment using an integral routine to find the resonance frequency and set overall parameters that provide the best trade-off for highly sensitive and reliable measurements. Advanced users can tailor every step of the process and have full access to all control parameters. To ensure that tips are protected from unwanted crashes we integrated special extra fast communication between the Zurich Instruments hardware and our Matrix hardware which drives the microscope.This fast and reliable tip protection minimizes the risk of unwanted modification or destruction of the probe.

During such a project, numerous challenges arise that can only be tackled by a tight collaboration between the two companies. The work with Zurich Instruments was highly productive and a great experience for us, both on the technical and business side.

How will your existing customers benefit from the recent SPM controller developments?

We have a strong commitment to providing our customers with software and hardware updates over long product life cycles. At the moment, we are evaluating for which Matrix hardware versions an upgrade is technically feasible. What I can say today is that all Matrix versions delivered in the last two years are upgradable.

Did you receive your first feedback from the market regarding the new Matrix 4 SPM controller?

The first reactions at the launch event at the DPG meeting were very encouraging. We are also proud to say that first Matrix 4 SPM controllers will soon be delivered to a third generation LT STM as well to a Fermi DryCoolTM customer. We are convinced that these combinations are the best possible solution in the market today.

Thanks for your insights. We are very excited about the collaboration and look forward to seeing many groundbreaking publications based on the new Matrix 4 SPM controllers out there soon.

Martin Rohmer

Martin Rohmer is leading the SPM business section at Scienta Omicron.

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