NASA-Langley Research Center Purchases NanoManipulator System

3rdTech’s First Commercial Installation Will Build Tools for Nondestructive Evaluation

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., June 13, 2001 – 3rdTech Inc., developing products and businesses from leading-edge university research, today announced the installation of the first commercial NanoManipulator DP-100 Visualization and Control System at NASA Langley Research Center (NASA-LARC). The NanoManipulator System, along with a ThermoMicroscopes’ Explorer Scanning Probe Microscope (SPM), will be used to employ nanotechnology in developing tools for nondestructive evaluation.

The NanoManipulator System was originally developed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by collaboration between the Departments of Computer Science and Physics and provides interactive, precise, real-time control of an SPM. Using the NanoManipulator, a scientist can take control of the SPM’s probe, move it to precisely the desired location in a sample, and then interactively manipulate atomic-sized structures. These capabilities enable explorations and manipulations that are difficult or impossible with traditional SPM controls. The system has been in development and test for several years at UNC-CH, and is now available commercially.

The nondestructive evaluation (NDE) research group at NASA-LARC will use the NanoManipulator DP-100 and Explorer SPM to precisely extract, manipulate and place individual carbon nanotubes. The goal is to create devices employing carbon nanotubes that can be used to test for structural weaknesses in aircraft surfaces. “Today engineers use optical microscopes to wire electronic circuitry”, said Buzz Wincheski, Aerospace Technologist at NASA-LARC. “We’re using the NanoManipulator to wire circuits ten thousand times smaller.”

The NanoManipulator DP-100 provides a ‘force-feedback’ or haptic display, which lets the user ‘feel’ the surface of the sample. When the probe on an SPM is being used for manipulation, it is no longer scanning the surface and the visual display will be slightly mis-registered due to drift and hysteresis. The haptic display is not subject to these effects and provides accurate location information throughout any manipulations. This makes it possible to select and move a single carbon nanotube. Other features of the NanoManipulator DP-100 include advanced 3D graphics, an automatic lab notebook for complete session archives, and a PC viewer for viewing session archives on any graphics-enabled PC.

“It’s very gratifying seeing the NanoManipulator System in the hands of new researchers”, said Nick England, President and CEO of 3rdTech, Inc. “We believe its unique capabilities will make it a ‘must have’ in every nanotechnology research center’s toolkit.” Additional information about the NanoManipulator System and research resulting from its use is available at