STMs are helpful because they can give researchers a three dimensional profile of a surface, which allows researchers to examine a multitude of characteristics, including roughness, surface defects and determining things about the molecules such as size and conformation.
Other advantages of the scanning tunneling microscope include:
Capable of capturing much more detail than lesser microscopes. This helps researchers better understand the subject of their research on a molecular level.
STMs are also versatile. They can be used in ultra high vacuum, air, water and other liquids and gasses.
They will operate in temperatures as low as zero Kelvin up to a few hundred degrees Celsius.
There are very few disadvantages to using a scanning tunneling microscope.
The two major downsides to using STMs are:
STMs can be difficult to use effectively. There is a very specific technique that requires a lot of skill and precision. STMs require very stable and clean surfaces, excellent vibration control and sharp tips.
STMs use highly specialized equipment that is fragile and expensive.
The electronics required for an STM are extremely sophisticated as well as very expensive.
Low cost and relatively low quality STMs start at approximately $8,000 but some people have actually built their own amateur STMs for much less than that amount.
However, professional quality STMs can range anywhere from $30,000 to $150,000 depending on the manufacturer and the extra parts included.
If you are interested in buying a scanning tunneling microscope, there are several reputable manufacturers from which you can make a purchase.
STM manufacturers include:
Nanosurf is a company that specializes in manufacturing both AFM and STMs. The company's primary STM is called the Nanosurf easyScan 2 STM. You can also buy upgrades and customize this STM to your specific needs.
RHK Technology is another major manufacturer of scanning probe microscopes, including STMs. RHK Technology was founded in 1981 and has since become a leader in SPM manufacturing.
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