Nanoscale measuring with a standard optical microscope

A NOVEL form of microscope slide that can turn any light microscope into a nanometre measuring device has been introduced by Nanolane.

A 10nm protein pattern on a Nanolane Surf, rendered in 3D

The company says its Sarfus Mapping Lite system uses novel ‘Surfs’ in place of conventional glass slides, and that these bring about enough contrast enhancement to make nanometric objects including nanotubes, DNA strands, and nanoparticles visible and measurable through the standard eyepiece. Particular uses of the system include the measurement of thin films and surface treatments of nanometre thickness.

Surfs are 10mm squares of silicon or glass plate, carrying a stack of nanometric layers. These generate a dark background to reveal details of the sample that would otherwise be lost. A fuller explanation is available of the Nanolane website.

The system can detect films as thin as 0.3nm, nanotubes and nanofibres to 2nm width, and 3D nanoparticles to 20nm diameter, the company says. Once loaded onto the Surf, samples are handled much like any conventional microscope slide. No sample labelling is required, and any reflected-light microscope is said to be compatible (surface-enhanced ellipsometric contrast (SEEC) microscopy is recommended).

Software enables a 2D colour microscope image obtained from a CCD camera to generate a 3D thickness map.

Update: LabHomepage asked Nanolane about the name ‘Surfs’, wondering whether this was an acronym or had any other significance. In fact, the company tells us, it is simply a short form of ‘surface’ – and indeed the brand name Sarfus is also surface in back slang. So now we know.

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