Like the earlier scanning tunnelling microscope, the atomic force microscope uses the interaction between the tip of a very fine probe and a sample's surface to 'see' details of the surface down to the size of individual atoms. Both have different advantages. The components on top form the microscope, the metal plates underneath are for vibration isolation. The whole apparatus was suspended on cords for further isolation. Made by C F Quate and G Binning of Stanford University, and C Gerber of IBM Research.
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