Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Using Lego to build a nanoscope

Publication date: Sep 16, 2013 11:55:16 AM

Working on AFM

The world’s first low cost Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) has been developed in Beijing by a group of PhD students from UCL, Tsinghua University and Peking University – using Lego.

In the first event of its kind, LEGO2NANO brought together students, experienced makers and scientists to take on the challenge of building a cheap and effective AFM, a device able to probe objects only a millionth of a millimetre in size – far smaller than anything an optical microscope can observe.

Research–grade AFMs typically cost upwards of £50,000, and use custom hardware, however, the newly designed low–cost version could cost just a few hundred pounds to produce.

The design brief for the student teams was to build a functional nanoscope, using only Lego, Arduino microcontrollers, 3D–printed parts and consumer electronics. The event was co–sponsored by the Lego Foundation, and involved active participation by Chinese high–school students, as potential users of such low–cost science tools.

It took just five days for the student team to demonstrate the scanning functionality of their AFM, earning them the award for Best Technical Design.

Photo credit: Woody De–Yu Wang, Toyhouse, Tsinghua University


High resolution image

Contact Joanna Rooke (London Centre for Nanotechnology) for reproduction queries.