Real-time observation of electrochemical processes at the nanoscale
Atomic force microscope is a powerful instrument for the observation of nano-scale features on the samples in various environments (air,liquid, vacuum). However, the conventional atomic force microscopes are very slow.An active research in the Mechatronics Research Laboratory at MIT is on the development of a high speed atomic force microscope. This novel instrument will enable researchers in the field to take video rate images of nano-scale processes such as coating, dissolution, as they are happening.
With her experience Dr. Al Ghamdi will assist with the process of selecting the proper/interesting phenomenon to be observed,preparing samples and the environment to meet the requirements of the Atomic Force microscope for proper operation, is a challenging task. One needs to fully understand the basis of operation of an AFM and at the same time have an understanding of the nano-scale process under investigation to be able to properly make such measurements. Upon successful measurement (videos) of the selected nano-scale processes Dr.AlGhamdi will assist with properly interpreting the results and reporting the scientific observations as these observations will be made for the first time in the world.
To enable real-time imaging capabilities of an atomic force microscope, all the bottle-necks including the sensing mechanism need to be improved. The current/dominant sensing mechanism in an atomic force microscope is based on an optical beam deflection setup. Such a setup cannot be easily moved at high speeds without introducing artifacts into the acquired images. High speed movement of the sample would also contribute to the unwanted artifacts in the acquired images. As such, the current research direction in the Mechatronics Research Laboratory at MIT is towards fabrication of self-sensed micro-cantilevers. The objective is to design and fabricate these cantilevers for minimal spring constant, and maximal resonance frequency and sensitivity.
Dr. AlGhamdi’s experience will contribute to the selection of the proper sensing methodology i.e. Piezo-resistive vs. Piezo-electric, optimizing the coating,exposure and etching process for the selected material/sensing mechanism, and the development of techniques for the enhancement of the tip of the fabricated self-sensed cantilevers e.g. by forming carbon nano-tubes on the tip or through electron beam deposition.