Auburn University receives long-term loan for state-of-the-art atomic force microscope

A multidisciplinary faculty collaboration has resulted in Auburn University being one of only five locations in the USA to receive a new Tosca 400 Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) on loan from the Austrian manufacturer of scientific instruments Anton Paar.

Assistant Professor Maria Soledad Peresin of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University. (Auburn University)

Assistant Professor Maria Soledad Peresin of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences led efforts to qualify for the AFM loan and worked with Virginia Davis, alumni professor of chemical engineering at Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, along with Michael E. Miller , the director of the Auburn University Research Instrumentation Facility and Assistant Research Professor of Life Sciences at the College of Sciences and Mathematics.

The capabilities of the Tosca 400 are state-of-the-art and combine first-class technology with time-efficient operation. To get technical, AFM uses a surface scanning technique with sub-nanometer resolution – meaning the tool can measure materials that are so vanishingly small that their resolution or dimensions are less than a billionth of a meter be. The AFM is widely used to collect data on mechanical, functional, and electrical properties on the nano-scale, in addition to topography and surface roughness studies.

The equipment loan is part of Anton Paar’s AFM influencer program, which selects influential scientists and universities to receive a long-term loan of the Tosca 400, which is then installed in their laboratories. The Tosca 400 system is now located in the Auburn University Research Instrumentation Facility, where five senior researchers and dozen of PhD students have been formally trained in its use.

Virginia Davis, alumni professor of chemical engineering at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. (Auburn University)

These partnerships were formed to promote the company’s fast, easy-to-use systems, said Kristi Folden, who leads Anton Paar’s surface engineering product line in the southeast.

“Dr. Peresin and Davis were recognized for their enthusiasm for the opportunity, the need for access to the technique to advance the research of their laboratories, their intensive contact with industry in the area, and the rapid growth plan that Auburn has for research in the years to come , selected. “Said Folden.

Peresin said the high-end laboratory device will make a significant contribution to research and teaching.

“The AFM influencer program at Auburn provides easy access to this technique to advance and improve the quality of our research efforts,” said Peresin, who considers the AFM essential to her nanocellulosic research. “It will also improve the service we provide to our industrial partners, while at the same time giving my team the potential to strengthen collaboration with other Auburn units and other universities in the region.”

In October 2019, Anton Paar released five new modes for Tosca AFM that support electrical and magnetic surface characterization – an important innovative upgrade. The upgrades are Magnetic Force Microscopy Mode, Electrostatic Force Microscopy Mode, Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy Mode, Conductive Atomic Force Microscopy Mode, and Current Control Conductive Atomic Force Microscopy Mode.

Michael E. Miller, director of the Auburn University Research Instrumentation Facility and Assistant Research Professor of Life Sciences at the College of Sciences and Mathematics. (Auburn University)

With the support of the company, Auburn was able to receive the AFM with the new modes.

That benefit is the result of Peresin’s research and perseverance, Folden said.

“DR. Peresin was instrumental in providing the justification needed to make the upgrade possible and bringing additional skills to campus that will attract use by faculty and students as well as industry partners,” said Folden.

The aim is to provide modern, easy-to-use AFM functions to students and faculties across the campus. Data from the system is contained in several high quality manuscripts that are currently under review, in addition to several posters and oral presentations.

Dean Janaki Alavalapati of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences said the company’s selection for Auburn as one of a few partnerships underscores the advanced and ongoing scope of study within the school.

“This type of initiative reflects the quality and diversity of our research,” said Alavalapati. “The ability to leverage the innovative capabilities of Tosca AFM will definitely add a significant edge to the research that is carried out here on campus and in other facilities in the region.”

The placement of the Tosca 400 will provide significant benefits to businesses and other universities in the area that will benefit researchers in the Auburn research community and beyond.

This story originally appeared on the Auburn University website.

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