System and Method for Measuring Distribution of Deformation Using Atomic Force (not leading)

Interferometric absolute and real-time surface curvature sensor insensitive to tilt, translation and vibration


Kyung-Suk Kim has developed a device to improve modern microscopes by allowing them to measure deformations in a surface at the resolution of mere atoms. The invention can improve the resolution of an atomic micrograph system beyond the capabilities of state-of-the-art technologies including tunneling electron microscopes (TEM) and scanning probe microscopes (SPM). The device can measure deformation at an atomic scale with low expense by improving resolution using an AFM (atomic force microscope) system.

 Market Opportunity

The two state-of-the-art microscopes commonly used to see objects at very small scales both have inherent limitations. TEM, which irradiates the sample with a focused electron bean, is useful for observing the atomic structure of a material with high magnification, but simply manufacturing a specimen that can be observed using a transmission electron microscope is difficult and expensive. 

SPM, meanwhile, can measure the structure of nano-sized materials using a physical tip to probe the subject. A particular type of this technique, AFM, uses a probe pin called a cantilever to contact the surface of the subject. The cantilever is no thicker than just a few atoms and generates a tiny force when the atom at its end approaches the surface of the specimen to be studied. This force bends or changes the resonance of the microscope’s cantilever; in this way the AFM can measure the surface of the object. AFM is not saddled with the cost problems that beset TEM. However, scanning probe microscopes in general face an inherent limit in measurement resolution, which means they cannot measure an atomic structure of a target. 

An advancement that overcomes the weaknesses in these microscopy methods could create a ripple effect that benefits any area of study that has benefitted from the rise of biotechnology, including biology, energy, environmental science, informational technology, and many more.

 Innovation and Meaningful Advantages

Kim’s device includes several key elements. First, there is a laser source to generate a laser beam. The system also includes two cantilevers, the second of which will pass close to the specimen to be measured to cause deformation by an atomic force. The device’s optical system, employing mirrors and convex lenses, controls the light path of the laser so that the beam will be carefully, sequentially reflected to the first cantilever and the second cantilever. Finally, it includes a way to measure the laser beam after it is reflected from the second cantilever.

This setup overcomes the inherent limitations in resolution that prevents conventional scanning probe microscopes from observing the lattice arrangement information of atoms in a specimen. And because Kim’s invention is based upon a scanning microscope system, it skirts the high costs required for the equipment and specimen preparation for TEM. Using Kim’s system, large-scale measurement and deformation rate measurement can be performed, and user-desired data can be more precisely and variously measured.

Collaboration Opportunity

We are seeking an investment opportunity to further develop this innovative technology.

Principal Investigator

Kyung-Suk Kim, PhD

Professor of Engineering

Brown University

Brown Tech ID #2172

PI Website

IP Information

2005-06-16 WO2004111575B1; published.



Brian Demers

Director of Business Development

Physical & Computational Sciences



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Brown Technology Innovations
350 Eddy Street - Box 1949
Providence, RI 02903
Kyung-Suk Kim
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