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An low-cost spectrum analyzer for trouble shooting noise sources in scanning probe microscopy

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Document pages: 5 pages

Abstract: Scanning probe microscopes are notoriously sensitive to many types ofexternal and internal interference including electrical, mechanical andacoustic noise. Sometimes noise can even be misinterpreted as real features inthe images. Therefore, quantification of the frequency and magnitude of anynoise is key to discovering the source and eliminating it from the system.While commercial spectrum analyzers are perfect for this task, they are ratherexpensive and not always available. We present a simple, cost effectivesolution in the form of an audio output from the instrument coupled to a smartphone spectrum analyzer application. Specifically, the scanning probe signal,e.g. the tunneling current of a scanning tunneling microscope is fed to thespectrum analyzer which Fourier transforms the time domain acoustic signal intothe frequency domain. When the scanning probe is in contact with the sample,but not scanning, the output is a spectrum containing both the amplitude andfrequency of any periodic noise affecting the microscope itself, enablingtroubleshooting to begin.

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