FET-Open Project QAFM

The Project

Our Vision

Our vision is a radical improvement in the speed of acquisition and information content of Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM) images. We will adopt a new paradigm for the resonant mechanical force sensor used in Low Temperature Atomic Force Microscopy (LT-AFM). Our ultimate goal is a Quantum-limited Atomic Force Microscope (Q-AFM), where the force sensor is working at the fundamental limit of action and reaction set by quantum physics. Achieving this limit will result in three orders of magnitude improvement in force sensitivity, and five orders of magnitude in measurement bandwidth, beyond the current state-of-the-art. This gain in performance will translate to a radical increase in imaging speed and in the information content of images. Our sensors will lead to a revolution in SPM, where multi-dimensional data sets are acquired in seconds, as opposed to several days as is the current practice.

Our Concept

The key to designing an optimal sensor lies in achieving a strong electro-mechanical coupling and very low noise detection principle. Engineering this coupling is a main thrust of the field of Nano-Electro-Mechanical Systems (NEMS) and Nano-Optical-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (NOEMS). Recently NEMS have stepped in to the quantum world by implementing side-band cooling, originally used to cool trapped ions with lasers. A lithographically fabricated membrane with mechanical resonance frequency of order 10MHz was cooled to its quantum ground state by coupling it to a superconducting electromagnetic oscillator held at mili-Kelvin temperature and driven with coherent microwaves. Our project builds on these ground-breaking proof-of-concept experiments with the goal of producing an integrated sensor for applications in SPM.

Our Approach

This project seeks to combine threads of research from several different disciplines. The theory of quantum-limited force detection has its genesis at the cosmological scale in gravity wave research. We are trying to adapt these fundamental ideas about quantum-limited measurement to the nanometer scale. While similar ideas are actively pursued in the field of Q-NEMS and c-QED, there is thus far there is no demonstration of a quantum-limited force sensor suitable for SPM. Our objective is to solve a problem in the LT-AFM community and not by an incremental amount. By introducing a new measurement paradigm to the LT-AFM community, our project has the potential to result in enormous advancement. We merge ideas from the superconducting quantum circuit community, augment these with designs and techniques from the MEMS sensors and actuators community, and apply them to LT-AFM.

The Consortium

KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Since its founding in 1827, KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm has grown to become one of Europe’s leading technical and engineering universities, as well as a key centre of intellectual talent and innovation. Today KTH is Sweden’s largest technical research and learning institution and home to students, researchers and faculty from around the world dedicated to advancing knowledge.

University of Basel

The University of Basel is a full University and has research priorities in the areas of Sustainability and Energy as well as Quantum- and Nanoscale Science. The Department of Physics is the coleading house of the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) “QSIT - Quantum Science and Technology” which combines high-level research in quantum physics and information theory and constitutes a priority program of the University of Basel. It combines basic interdisciplinary science with application-orientated research. In various projects researchers focus on the control of quantum systems and aim at providing new impact and ideas to the quantum science and technology, to the sustainable use of resources, and to information and communication technologies.

TU Wien

Technische Universität Wien (TU Wien) a modern research university. More than 4500 employees work, research and teach at Austria’s largest institution for research and education in natural science and engineering. TU Wien offers a research environment that equally encourages high quality fundamental and application-oriented research, thus ensuring its long-term success. TU Wien selected five focal research areas among which are Quantum Physics and Technologies and Information and Communication Technology which include Sensor Systems.

Intermodulation Products

Intermodulation Products AB (IMP) is a high-tech SME based in northern Sweden. IMP is dedicated to the research and development of intermodulation measurement and analysis techniques. The company emerged out of inventions made in the Section of Nanostructure Physics at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden. They have a patented Intermodulation Lockin Amplifier (ImLA)™, also called Multifrequency Lock Amplifier (MLA)™, which is a general purpose measurement system for probing both nonlinear and linear response at many frequencies, simultaneously. IMP also has extensive expertise in algorithms for analysing nonlinear response, which are implemented in a software package for Intermodulation Atomic Force Microscopy (ImAFM)™, a patented technique for nanoscale surface analysis.


Two PhD Positions at KTH. Application deadline Feb. 6.

One PhD position at the University of Basel.


KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Coordinator)

Prof. David Haviland


University of Basel

Dr. Thilo Glatzel


TU Wien

Dr. Daniel Platz


Intermodulation Products AB

Dr. Erik Tholén