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Proximal Probes Facility

proximal probes

The Proximal Probes Facility consists of laboratories for microscopy, spectroscopy, and probing of nanostructured materials and their functional properties. At the core of the facility is a suite of instruments for in-situ microscopy of surfaces and nanostructures under extreme conditions, e.g., in reactive gases, and at high or low temperatures. Unique instruments enable in-situ and in-operando studies of surface chemistry and catalysis at pressures from ultrahigh vacuum (UHV) to 5 bar via complementary scanning tunneling microscopy imaging and photoelectron spectroscopy, coupled with real-time gas analysis. Several UHV systems are available for scanning tunneling and atomic force microscopy, as well as low-energy electron microscopy and synchrotron photoelectron microscopy. A UHV nanoprobe system allows electrical transport measurements on individual nanostructures.

All of these instruments provide extensive capabilities for sample preparation and modification, and for routine characterization by diffraction and electron or ion spectroscopy techniques.  In addition to complex UHV systems, powerful instruments are available for nanostructure characterization in air or controlled ambients, including fluids. Each of these systems enables multiple measurement techniques, including scanning probe, optical microscopy, Raman microscopy, and spectroscopy, hence serving a broad range of user needs.


  • Atomic-resolution, real-time, and spectroscopic surface microscopy of dynamic surface processes
  • Elevated-pressure and flow-reactor scanning probe microscopy on model catalysts
  • Low-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy and atomic force microscopy*, spectroscopy, single atom and molecule manipulation
  • In-situ transport measurements on single nanostructures ((e.g., nanowires)), in UHV and in reactive gases

Low-energy electron microscopy & photoelectron microscopy

Contact: Jerzy Sadowski

Elmitec AC-LEEM aberration-corrected, spectroscopic low-energy electron microscope for high resolution spectro-microscopy of surfaces. Spatial resolution better than 3 nm in LEEM and 5 nm in XPEEM mode. Situated at the Electron Spectro-Microscopy (ESM) beamline at the NSLS-II. Micro- diffraction and micro-spectroscopy capabilities with photon energies from 15eV to 1500 eV. In-situ deposition and gas dosing capabilities. Can operate at variable temperatures (200 K to over 1700 K), and at pressures from UHV to 10-6 Torr.

Elmitec LEEM V field-emission low-energy electron microscope for in-situ microscopy of dynamic surface processes. Micro-diffraction capability. Operation at variable temperature (200 K to over 1500 K), and at pressures from UHV to about 10-6 torr.

Probing of transport and photoelectric properties of single nanostructures

Contact: Percy Zahl

Omicron Nanotechnology 4-Point Nanoprobe with Zeiss Gemini UHV field-emission scanning electron microscope, scanning Auger microscopy spectroscopy, integrated Orsay Physics UHV focused ion beam system, and low-energy electron diffraction.

UHV and elevated pressure microscopy & spectroscopy

Contact: Xiao Tong

RHK Technology UHV 7500 variable temperature UHV atomic force and scanning tunneling microscope equipped for operation in UHV as well as in reactive gases at pressures up to ~10 torr; preparation chamber equipped with low-energy electron diffraction, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and ion scattering spectroscopy.

Low temperature scanning tunneling/atomic force microscopy

Contact: Percy Zahl

Customized Createc low-temperature UHV scanning tunneling and atomic force* microscope (NC-AFM/STM) nominally operating at 5K (within a liquid helium bath cryostat shielded environment); high-resolution microscopy, ultrastable tunneling spectroscopy, force imaging and mapping in various operation modes, single atom and molecule manipulation. Sample preparation chamber equipped with liquid helium cooled manipulator and low-energy electron diffraction. Fast exchange deposition source port, various gas and molecule dosing options "in-situ" at low temperature.

(*) NC-AFM detection is using a qPlus Sensor (TM) FJ. Giessibl at 30kHz. Frequency shift detection, constant height force (Freq. shift) mapping.

Scanning probe and optical microscopes for operation in air and controlled ambient

Contact: Xiao Tong

Park NX-20 atomic force microscope for surface imaging at ambient conditions at room temperature, as well as at elevated temperatures. It provides capabilities for standard contact and non-contact AFM operation, as well as Lateral Force Microscopy (LFM), Scanning Capacitance Microscopy (SCM), Magnetic Force Microscopy (MFM), Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM) and Nanolitography, among others.

WiTec Alpha combination microscope for atomic force microscopy, scanning near-field optical microscopy, confocal microscopy, and confocal Raman microscopy within the same field of view. Two laser excitation sources (633 nm and 532 nm) for confocal and confocal Raman microscopy. Operation between room temperature and 200°C.

Ambient Pressure Photoelectron Spectroscopy (AP-PES) 

Contact: J. Anibal Boscoboinik

The AP-PES endstation allows for surface chemical analysis via core-level photoelectron spectroscopy (including XPS and XAS) at gas pressures up to ~ 3 Torr and sample temperatures up to 500 °C.  Applications include in-operando studies of surface chemistry, catalysis, and energy storage processes.  The endstation is located at the CSX-2 beamline of the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II).  The AP-PES endstation is expected to start operations by the fall of 2015.  The photon energy range of the beamline is from 250 eV to 2 keV, covering the O 1s, N 1s and C 1s core levels as well as many transition metal core levels.  Differential pumping allows for gas pressures in the Torr range at the sample while maintaining ultrahigh vacuum conditions in the analyzer.  Suitable sample types include single crystals, foils, and powders.  Future upgrades of the endstation are aimed at achieving working pressures approaching 1 Atmosphere and implementing polarization-modulation infrared reflection absorption spectroscopy in the same system.