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Nanomanipulation in the SEM: theory and practice

Handling and sensing single nanoparticles can be very cumbersome to the novice with no expert support. In fact, because of their size, nano-objects have to be observed under vacuum conditions in a scanning electron microscope (SEM). In this environment, forces acting between objects are fundamentally different from those at macroscale: the gravity plays a negligible role, while van der Waals and electrostatic forces take precedence.

This application note intends to provide the reader a basic understanding of the theory behind the forces acting on objects at nanoscale, and to propose a few tips and tricks to increase the efficiency in manipulating such objects in the SEM. The experimental section illustrates the theory with an example of nanomanipulators operated to pick up nanowires from a native substrate and to transfer them to another substrate.

The experiment is carried out in a MERLIN SEM from Carl Zeiss with the Nanoprobing SEM Solution from Imina Technologies loaded with 4 miBot™ nanomanipulators.

Experiment realized at

National Enterprise for nanoScience and nanoTechnology (NEST), Pisa, Italy

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Imina Technologies' application engineer shows a colleague how to land probes on nanoscale contacts for in-situ SEM transistor characterization.