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Technical Information
PicoQ® Sensor Technology
Flexure Motion
Eliminating Coupled Motion
High Resolution Sensors
Nanopositioning Accuracy
Piezoactuator Information

Technical Papers
High-Speed Precision for 3-D Images
Long Range Motion with Nanometer Precision
Piezoresistive Sensors
Understanding Noise at the Nanometer Scale
Nanopositioning Resolution

Additional Information
Measuring Atomic Steps
Sub-Nanometer Motion
Measuring Surface Roughness
High Resolution Sensors
Nanopositioning Accuracy

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Mad City Labs nanopositioning systems are useful for any application which demands precision and reproducibility at the nanometer or sub-nanometer level. These applications include numerous types of microscopy, nano-alignment, optical scanning, nano-manufacturing, testing, and robotics.

PicoQ® Position Sensor Technology Mad City Labs uses temperature compensated semiconductor piezoresistive networks for absolute position measurements.  This sensing system typically achieves positioning linearity better than 0.05% and is capable of position noise down into the picometer range (1 picometer = 0.001 nanometer).  See high resolution sensors for more information.

Performance Verification of PicoQ® Sensor Technology

The Power of PicoQ®: Ultra-Low Position Noise
Read more about measuring inherent position noise of nanopositioning systems with PicoQ® sensor technology.

The Power of PicoQ®: Outstanding Accuracy
Read more about the impressive accuracy and linearity achieved by Mad City Labs nanopositioning systems, verified by NIST-traceable interferometer.

The Power of PicoQ®: Extended Cable Lengths Without Performance Loss
Read about the comparison of PicoQ® sensor technology to capacitive sensors.

The Power of PicoQ®: No Performance Loss in Vacuum
Read about the comparison of PicoQ® sensor technology to capacitive sensors in UHV.

Piezoelectric actuators

Mad City Labs nanopositioning systems are activated using multi-layered piezoactuators. These actuators are made from PZT ceramic which expands in response to an applied voltage. See piezoactuators for more information. Expansion of PZT ceramic is nearly linear with voltage, but hysteresis (~8%) and creep (~1%) must be eliminated by precise electronic closed loop control. Piezoactuators, by themselves, are poor nanopositioning devices.

Flexure Guided Motion

To overcome the coupled motion problems associated with PZT piezoactuators, all Mad City Labs nanopositioning systems incorporate flexure stages. Flexure based stages have the unique attribute of zero mechanical friction. Carefully designed flexures restrict the motion of each axis to a single direction. This effectively decouples the unwanted motions in the PZT actuators and results in a pure, one-dimensional translation.   See flexure motion and eliminating coupled motion for more information.


Since there is no quantum principle effecting the lattice spacing in the PZT actuators, the step resolution of Mad City Labs nanopositioning stages is dependent only on the resolution of the input control signal (analog or digital) to the Nano-Drive® controller - limited by the fundamental noise floor of the system.  See nanopositioning accuracy for more information.

Closed Loop vs. Open Loop

In open loop mode, the output driver controls the motion of the nanopositioning stage simply by amplifying the input voltage. The position of the nanopositioning stage includes errors resulting from piezoactuator creep and hysteresis. In closed loop mode, the input voltage is compared to the voltage from an internal position sensor. Using a proportional-integral feedback loop, the driver output is continuously adjusted so that the sensor signal matches the input signal to the driver. Since the sensor signal is highly proportional to the absolute position, the position of the nanopositioner matches the driver input voltage. The effects of creep and hysteresis are eliminated. Closed loop systems are necessary in any nanopositioning application which requires stability, precision, and repeatability.  See nanopositioning accuracy for more information.

Load Capacity

The primary impact of adding a large load to a nanopositioning stage is reduction of the system's resonant frequency. This is analogous to adding weight onto a mechanical spring and thereby reducing the "bouncing" frequency. Since it is important to prevent the nanopositioning system from actually reaching resonance, Mad City Labs adjusts the bandwidth of the controller to compensate for the anticipated mass. This means that every system is optimized for the actual experimental conditions and can be operated at the fastest practical speed. The specified maximum load for each nanopositioner is intended as an approximate guideline - Mad City Labs sales engineers are happy to discuss the tradeoff between load and positioning speed for your actual application.

Technical Papers and Related Information

High-Speed Precision for 3-D Images
Long Range Motion with Nanometer Precision
Piezoresistive Sensors
Understanding Noise at the Nanometer Scale
Nanopositioning Resolution
AFM Demonstrations: Measuring Atomic Steps
AFM Demonstrations: Sub-Nanometer Motion
AFM Demonstrations: Measuring Surface Roughness
Nanometer Accuracy
High Resolution Sensors

mclgen@madcitylabs.com       phone: 608.298.0855       fax: 608.298.9525

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