The nanoManipulator

Scanned-probe microscopes (SPMs) allow the investigation and manipulation of surfaces down to the atomic scale. The nanoManipulator (nM) system provides a virtual-environment interface to SPMs, which gives the scientist virtual telepresence on the surface, scaled by a factor of about a million to one. The nM system is a continually evolving tool, developed in close collaboration with real users, that provides new ways of interacting with materials and objects at the nanometer scale. This has led to new results in the student of biology, materials science, carbon nanotubes, and electrical engineering.

Since the beginning, the nM has run on a high-end graphics system in order to achieve acceptable graphics for real-time display. Three-dimensional graphics accelerator cards for Intel-based platforms have now become powerful enough to reach the performance level of mid-range to higher-end SGI graphics. Through the Technology for Education 2000 program, we have obtained equipment to test the applicability of graphics-accelerated Intel-based machines for real-time display and control of the nM system. The goal is to find the lowest-cost system that has acceptable performance as a nM controller--one that's affordable to scientists around the world.

At the same time, the graphics-accelerated Intel platform is an ideal vehicle for undergraduate education. Don Brenner of NC State University has funding to develop a system that can demonstrate the nM system to science classes, and has purchased the force-feedback device to do force display. One of the graphics-accelerated machines provided by the Intel gift is now in Brenner's lab and being used to develop and deploy this system.

Several additional desktop Intel-based computers have been provided to control PHANToM force display devices and to be used by computer science and physics researchers for data analysis and program development.

For more information, see the nanoManipulator research page.

Last content review: 19 July 2001
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