What To Look For In A Nanopositioner

by Sherry Hart

You might not be working in the Curiosity Rover's science lab on Mars, but if you work with high-powered scanning microscopes, you are likely to be interested in trying nanopositioning technology. Typically these systems use piezo stages and the nanopositioners that move about on them to obtain the images you need. These products allow you to be accurate to the nanometer, which is an improvement over older models that were only accurate to the micrometer scale. This provides a higher level of resolution that can be helpful in developing your conclusions. When you've got a piezo stage and start looking for nanopositioners, here are qualities to look for.

Low Mechanical Friction

When a nanopositioner encounters friction, that can generate heat, cause delays in function, and cause the device to experience more wear and tear. Therefore, it's a good idea to seek out positioners that have low friction properties, such as air bearings and flexures.

Air bearings are powered by preloaded mechanisms, allowing it to move in air in a variety of directions without encountering friction. Air bearings can work in large travel ranges, so if you are using a nanopositioner to scan large items, they may be best for you. However, keep in mind that they require clean air in order to function, which can make operation in a vacuum impossible. For these applications, flexures are preferred. Flexures tend to be more stable than air bearings, but they operate in shorter ranges.

By using these types of positioners, you may notice that they last longer than other types and need less maintenance. You can also eliminate the need and expense of lubricants as well.

Quick Movement for Moving Matter

If you plan to observe biological matter that is in motion, such as cells dividing, it is worth your while to seek out nanopositioners that can move quickly. Quicker moving positioners generally command higher prices, but your findings will be more accurate when your equipment can transmit visual information back to you as it is happening. If you are only observing static objects, you may be willing to compromise speed for more a more affordable price.

Now that you're more knowledgeable about what kind of nanopositioners might work best for your needs, consult others in your industry to find out what works for them. You might also want to speak to vendors like nPoint who can guide you toward the right equipment for your lab.