A new paper in the IEEE MEMS Journal talks about a single chip atomic force microscope. Typical atomic force microscopes run anywhere from $10k to $200k. Atomic force microscopes are very expensive because they require complex alignment of an extremely small pointed object (like a little miniature stylus) to the thing you’re trying to take a picture of. They work by scanning that sharp tip across the object like someone reading braille. The result is that you get a picture of that object that is not limited by the wavelength of light (it’s hard to take pictures of things that are smaller than the light itself).
Anyway, if you can make an atomic force microscope on a single chip, you don’t have to align anything. It just is all built into the same precisely manufactured device. It might be perfect for looking at DNA nanotechnology. I wonder if it would be possible to integrate that with a optical microscope and maybe a laser trap. That would be really good for looking at cells. Or even microparticles like I like to make. It’s probably not going to be good enough to look at single organic molecules (as cool as that is).