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SCANNING-PROBE TECHNIQUES OR APPARATUS; APPLICATIONS OF SCANNING-PROBE TECHNIQUES, e.g. SCANNING-PROBE MICROSCOPY [SPM]
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Scanning probes, i.e. devices having at least a tip of nanometre sized dimensions that scans or moves over an object surface, typically at a distance of a few angstroms or nanometres, monitoring some interaction between the tip and the surface, e.g. monitoring the generation of a tunnelling current.

Techniques or apparatus involving the use of scanning probes.

The following subjects are therefore covered, the list being non-exhaustive:

  • scanning probes per se, their manufacture or their related instrumentation, e.g. holders.
  • scanning-probe microscopy (SPM) or microscopes, i.e. the application of scanning probes to the investigation or analysis of a surface structure in atomic ranges.
  • applications, other than SPM, involving the use of scanning probes.
References relevant to classification in this main group
This subclass/group does not cover:
Electron or ion microscopes (e.g. scanning electron microscopes, transmission electron microscopes) and details thereof
Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Optical microscopes in general
Special rules of classification within this subclass

In this subclass, the first place priority rule is applied, i.e. at each hierarchical level, classification is made in the first appropriate place.

Scanning or positioning arrangements, i.e. arrangements for actively controlling the movement or position of the probe
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Actively controlling the movement or the location of the scanning probe tip relative to the object surface.

Coarse scanning or positioning
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Generating movement of the scanning probe tip relative to the object surface at a scale larger than the resolution of the scanning probe microscope.

Coarse scanning or positioning means are at least partially mechanical.

Illustrative example: US6267005

Fine scanning or positioning
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Generating movement of the scanning probe tip relative to the object surface of a size comparable to the resolution of the scanning probe microscope.

Fine scanning. Piezoelectrical scanning or positioning means are classified in this group.

Illustrative example:

[N: Self-actuating probes, i.e. wherein the actuating means for driving are part of the probe itself, e.g. piezoelectric means on a cantilever probe]
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Illustrative example of subject matter classified in this group: US6422069.

Circuits or algorithms therefor
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Electronic means for locating or stabilizing the movement of the scanning probe tip relative to the object surface.

Electronic circuits or algorithms governing scanning.

Illustrative example: US2008/0277582, Figure 6.

[N: Feedback mechanisms, i.e. wherein the signal for driving the probe is modified by a signal coming from the probe itself]
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Circuits or algorithms for driving the scanning probe during a scanning probe microscopy measurement, wherein the driving signal is adjusted during the measurement by using the detected signal coming from the interaction between the probe and the sample.

Illustrative example:

Special rules of classification within this group

In the case said circuits or algorithms belong to a specific kind of scanning probe microscope, the documents about them should be classified in the class pertinent to said particular kind of scanning probe microscope: e.g. a tapping mode atomic force microscopy, wherein the detected signal is used to keep the oscillation frequency of an atomic force microscopy probe, i.e., a cantilever, at its resonance frequency, should be classified in G01Q 60/34.

Monitoring the movement or position of the probe
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus to monitor the movement of the probe.

Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Monitoring the movement or position of the probe with active control thereof
by optical means
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Monitoring the movement of the probe by means of light-sensitive/responsive devices.

Illustrative example: US2003047675.

Self-detecting probes, i.e. wherein the probe itself generates a signal representative of its position, e.g. piezo-electric gauge
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Probes comprising in their structure means for detecting a signal to control/monitor their movements, e.g. piezoelectric gauges.

This group covers any kind of position-sensitive sensor integrated in the probe, like piezoresistive, capacitive, etc.

Illustrative example:

Auxiliary means serving to assist or improve the scanning probe techniques or apparatus, e.g. display or data processing devices
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Devices or methods to assist or improve the analysis or investigation.

Non-SPM analysing devices, e.g. SEM [Scanning Electron Microscope], spectrometer or optical microscope
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

An analysing or investigating device, different from a scanning probe microscope, for assisting or improving the master scanning probe techniques or apparatus.

Illustrative example:

[N: Optical microscopes coupled with SPM]
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Illustrative example of subject matter classified in this group: DE4233399.

Display or data processing devices
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

A programmable device that stores, retrieves, processes or displays data for assisting or improving the scanning probe techniques or apparatus.

This subgroup covers computers, other programmable devices, mathematical models and mathematical methods and algorithms for data analysis.

Illustrative example:

for error compensation
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

A programmable device wherein the data information is used to correct or fix the performance of the SPM.

Illsutrative example:

Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Feedback methods
Regulations/error compensation means integrated in the probe
Means for establishing or regulating a desired environmental condition within a sample chamber
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Means to adjust or control parameters, e.g. temperature, pressure or humidity, of a working environment condition inside the chamber containing the sample being studied.

Thermal environment
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Means to adjust or control the temperature of the sample chamber, e.g. a cryostat or heater that allows SPM to be performed at low or high temperatures.

Illustrative example:

Fluid environment
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Means to adjust or control parameters, e.g. pressure or compositions, of the fluid environment inside the sample chamber. The fluid environment can be in liquid or gas state.

Illustrative example: WO2006/040025, Figure 2

Liquid environment
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Means to adjust or control parameters of the liquid environment, e.g. water or other liquid chemical, inside the sample chamber.

Illustrative example: EP1990626

Vacuum environment
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Means to adjust or control a vacuum condition inside the sample chamber, e.g. pumping means.

Illustrative example:

Means for protecting or isolating the interior of a sample chamber from external environmental conditions or influences, e.g. vibrations or electromagnetic fields
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Means to prevent SPM from being disturbed by a condition outside the scanning probe microscope, e.g. vibration, temperature or pressure.

The SPM is protected as a whole under the adverse condition. For example, a specific housing or arrangement to eliminate external vibrations to assure the stability of the microscope, or shielding that protects it from electromagnetic fields.

Illustrative example:

Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Environmental regulation means for sample chamber
Regulations/error compensation means integrated in the probe
Sample handling device or methods
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or devices to perform mechanical operations on a sample in the scanning probe microscope for analysis or investigation, e.g. tweezers, cutting means.

Illustrative example:

Calibration, e.g. of probes
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus used to adjust or rectify a SPM device, e.g. the probe itself, to a desired standard.

Illustrative example:

Calibration standards and methods of fabrications thereof
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Structure with nanometric resolution used for correcting or fixing the performance of the SPM device before its utilization, e.g. grating with a known line separation, and related manufacture.

Illustrative example: EP676614

Particular type of SPM [Scanning Probe Microscopy] or microscopes; Essential components thereof
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus for which the type of interaction between the scanning probe tip and the sample surface is specified.

Multiple-type SPM, i.e. involving more than one SPM technique
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus involving two or more different types of interactions between the scanning probe tip and the sample surface, e.g. cantilever-type SPMs other than AFM which are explicitly built for AFM performances.

The device can contain either one probe or more than one probe to perform different types of SPM over the sample.

Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Devices containing array of tips with similar performance function
STM [Scanning Tunneling Microscopy] combined with AFM [Atomic Force Microscopy]
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus wherein the two monitored interactions are tunnelling current (STM) and the attractive or repulsive force between the probe and the sample surface (AFM).

Illustrative example:

Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Specific STMs
Specific AFMs
SNOM [Scanning Near-Field Optical Microscopy] combined with AFM [Atomic Force Microscopy]
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus wherein the two monitored interactions are near-field light emitted from the sample surface (SNOM) and the attractive or repulsive force between the probe and the sample surface (AFM).

Illustrative example:

Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Specific SNOMs
Specific AFMs
MFM [Magnetic Force Microscopy] combined with AFM [Atomic Force Microscopy]
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus wherein the two monitored interactions are the magnetic force between the sample and the probe (MFM) and the attractive or repulsive force between the probe and the sample surface (AFM).

Illustrative example: US2001/0030536, Figure 2

Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Specific MFMs
Specific AFMs
STM [Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy] or apparatus therefor, e.g. STM probes
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus for SPM wherein the monitored interaction is the tunnelling current between the tip and the sample, which are in very close proximity but not actually in physical contact.

STS [Scanning Tunnelling Spectroscopy]
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

STM or apparatus therefor wherein the local electronic state of surface is analysed or investigated.

Illustrative example: US52881814

STP [Scanning Tunnelling Potentiometry]
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

STM or apparatus therefor wherein the electric potential distribution on the sample is analysed or investigated.

Illustrative example: US5378983

Probes, their manufacture, or their related instrumentation, e.g. holders
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

STM probes, their manufacture, or related instrumentation, e.g. holders.

Illustrative example: WO2010/086759

SNOM [Scanning Near-Field Optical Microscopy] or apparatus therefor, e.g. SNOM probes
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus for SPM wherein the monitored interaction is the near-field light emitted or reflected from the object surface.

Fluorescence
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

SNOM or apparatus therefor wherein the near-field light to be monitored is the emission radiation from a sample surface excited by an electromagnetic wave.

Illustrative example: EP2296027

Probes, their manufacture, or their related instrumentation, e.g. holders
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

SNOM probes, their manufacture or related instrumentation, e.g. holders.

Illustrative example:

AFM [Atomic Force Microscopy) or apparatus therefor, e.g. AFM probes
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus for SPM wherein the monitored interaction is the short range repulsive or long range attractive force between the probe and atoms of the sample surface.

Friction force microscopy
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

AFM or apparatus therefor wherein the force monitored is the shear force between the probe and atoms of the sample surface.

Illustrative example: US2006/0150719

Adhesion force microscopy
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

AFM or apparatus therefor wherein the force monitored is the adhesion force that tends to keep the probe in contact with the sample surface.

Illustrative example:

Scanning potential microscopy
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

AFM or apparatus therefor wherein the force monitored is an electric interaction affected by the electric potential distribution on the sample surface, e.g. Kelvin probe microscopy and Scanning Maxwell stress microscopy.

Also probes for this kind of microscopes are classified here.

Illustrative example: EP1748447

AC mode
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

AFM or apparatus therefor wherein the probe is a vibrating cantilever, or is mounted on a vibrating cantilever.

Illustrative example: US2011/0154546

Tapping mode
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

AFM or apparatus therefor wherein tip of probe touches periodically the sample surface.

Illustrative example: US5519212

DC mode
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

AFM or apparatus therefor wherein the probe is, or is mounted on, a static (i.e. vibrationless) cantilever.

Illustrative example: EP2131180

[N: Contact mode AFM]
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

AFM wherein the probe is always in contact with the surface.

Illustrative example:

[N: Nanoindenters, i.e. wherein the indenting force is measured]
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Device for measuring indenting force into a surface using SPM probes.

Illustrative example: US2007/0227236

Probes, their manufacture, or their related instrumentation, e.g. holders
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

AFM probes, their manufacture, or their related instrumentation, e.g. holders.

Probes for AFM for special applications, like, e.g., tapping mode AFM, Kelvin Force microscopes, etc. are to be classified also in the corresponding groups.

Special shapes or processes for manufacture are classified in this group.

Illustrative example: US2010/0218288

Conductive probes
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

AFM probe that is made of a material that conducts electric charges.

Illustrative example: US2009/0001488

Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Conductive probes that perform the function of STM probes
Functionalization
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

AFM or apparatus therefor wherein specific particles are added to the tip to give it another characteristic, e.g. specific chemical receptor for biochemical analysis.

Illustrative example: US2010/0011472

SICM [Scanning Ion-Conductance Microscopy] or apparatus therefor, e.g. SICM probes
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus for SPM wherein the monitored interaction is the ion flow between the probe tip and the sample surface.

Illustrative example: US2011/0131690

SCM [Scanning Capacitance Microscopy] or apparatus therefor, e.g. SCM probes
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus for SPM wherein the monitored interaction is the electrical capacity between the probe tip and the sample surface.

Illustrative example: US2005/0030054

Probes, their manufacture, or their related instrumentation, e.g. holders
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

SCM probes, their manufacture, or their related instrumentation, e.g. holders.

Illustrative example: US7190175

MFM [Magnetic Force Microscopy] or apparatus therefor, e.g. MFM probes
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus for SPM wherein the monitored interaction is the magnetic force between the probe tip and the sample surface.

Illustrative example: US2006/0139026

Resonance
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

MFM or apparatus therefor wherein a spin magnetic moment is induced by a specific magnetic field frequency.

Illustrative example: US2007/0216412

Probes, their manufacture, or their related instrumentation, e.g. holders
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

MFM probes, their manufacture, or their related instrumentation, e.g. holders.

Illustrative example: US2010/0207622

Probes with magnetic coating
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

MFM probe tips that are coated with some material with specific magnetic property.

Illustrative example: US2010/0138964

SThM (Scanning Thermal Microscopy) or apparatus therefor, e.g. SThM probes
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus for SPM wherein the monitored interaction is the heat or temperature of the sample surface.

Illustrative example: US2009/0056428

SECM (Scanning Electro-Chemical Microscopy) or apparatus therefor, e.g. SECM probes
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Methods or apparatus for SPM wherein the monitored interaction is the Faraday current generated by an electrochemical reaction.

Illustrative example: US7156965

General aspects of SPM probes, their manufacture, or their related instrumentation, insofar as they are not specially adapted to a single SPM technique covered by group G01Q 60/00
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

General aspects of SPM probes, their manufacture or their related instrumentation, insofar as these probes are not specially adapted to a single particular type of SPM technique covered by group G01Q 60/00 and subgroups.

Probe holders
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

General aspects of SPM probe holders.

Illustrative example: US2010/0037360

with compensation for temperature or vibration induced errors
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

General SPM probe holders with integrated means to adjust the probe to correct for errors caused by temperature variations or vibrations.

Illustrative example: US2009/0255016

Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Error compensation in general
Protection of the scanning probe microscope in general
Probe tip arrays
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

General SPM probes wherein multiple tips of similar characteristics form a line or a matrix.

Illustrative example: US2010/0218284

Probe characteristics
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Specific characteristics of general SPM probes.

Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Process of probe fabrication
Special rules of classification within this group

Specific characteristics like shape, material, etc. are covered by the subgroups G01Q 70/10 - G01Q 70/14.

Shape or taper
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Specific physical form, degree of slope or angle of the tip in a general SPM probe. With "probe" both tip and cantilever are meant.

Illustrative example: US2009/005092

Nano-tube tips
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

General SPM probes having a nano-sized tube such as Carbon nano-tube.

Illustrative example: US2010/0229265

Particular materials
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Specific choice of materials for general SPM probes or components thereof. For example, where a cantilever or a coating on the tip is made of some material that gives a particular property to the scanning probe.

Materials of cantilever and/or tip.

Illustrative example: US2009/0313730

Probe manufacture
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Manufacture aspects of general SPM probes.

Illustrative example: US2011/039100

Special rules of classification within this group

Manufacture of probes for particular kinds of SPM (e.g. AFM, STM, SNOM) are classified in the corresponding G01Q 60/00 subgroup.

Functionalization
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

General SPM probes, wherein specific particles are added to the tip to give it another characteristic, e.g. specific chemical receptor for biochemical analysis.

Illustrative example: US2008/0093550

Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Functionalized AFM probes
Applications, other than SPM, of scanning-probe techniques (manufacture or treatment of nano-structures B82B 3/00; recording or reproducing information using near-field interaction G11B 9/12, G11B 11/24, G11B 13/08 )
Definition statement
This subclass/group covers:

Specific applications, different from SPM, of scanning-probe techniques.

References relevant to classification in this main group
This subclass/group does not cover:
Manufacture or treatment of micro-structures
Manufacture or treatment of nano-structures
Recording or reproducing information using near-field interaction
Informative references
Attention is drawn to the following places, which may be of interest for search:
Specific SPM techniques, apparatus therefor or components thereof, e.g. probes
General aspects of SPM probes
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Last Modified: 10/11/2013