So far it’s been mostly incremental improvements in firmware, fixing the problems associated with working in the 16-bit data space. Nothing drastic, but the firmware is getting better.
I’m talking with some friends at Creative Commons to help me set up this project as a “real” open source project.
Previously, I intended to run this project as a commercial project (with source code released after the commercial project was released).
I’ve changed my mind because:
I really want this project to be a repository for DIY STM information
I’ve lost interest in running this as a commercial venture
I would really enjoy having an active community around this
So, please keep an eye out as we re-launch the STM project as a community-centric open source project later this summer. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to join the core open source STM dev team.
What I’d like to do is form a core team, establish a clear project plan and milestones, then start publishing the current designs to a public Git repository.
Keep in touch as we work towards making the Chemhacker STM a more fully open source project.
I was notified late Wednesday that I have been awarded the October 2011 grant from the Chicago Awesome Foundation for completing the full prototype of the Scanning-Tunneling Microscope. Their posting is over here. For the record, yes, I officially love the Awesome Foundation.
The version 0.1 electronics in the video posted on the Make blog was a poor implementation of a good analog design with a microcontroller slapped to the inputs. I’ve since learned that analog is weird compared to digital, and getting those two worlds to talk properly involves a lot more finesse and art than science and equations (equations do get you into the ballpark, however).
I’m nearly done with a complete redesign of the digital and analog electronics (now at version 0.3). The new electronics incorporates nearly complete digital control of the STM (I’m working on ways to further increase the control the microchip has over the STM to include gain control of the many op-amps). Thanks to Idea Petri Dish for the assist on analog circuit design and troubleshooting.
With new electronics comes new firmware and software of course, which is in-process.
I’ve done a very rough draft of the vibration dampening table design. I’ll be using a classic floating gravestone style table – a heavy slab of material suspended by rubber bands, surrounded by a support structure. It’s not fancy, but it works.
I’m working with Bart Dring, of MakerSlide fame to design the rough approach (basically a screw, direct-driven by a 400 step motor and a 1/16th step driver, like the pololus popular with the RepRap folks).
I quit my job to pursue my dream of working in the device design industry, so if you’re feeling particularly generous, please purchase a periodic table – 100% of the proceeds goes towards funding this project.
If you want to find out when kits are available (soon, I hope), sign up here.
Many, many thanks! I can’t easily express how grateful I am for your generous support! I’ve chosen to quit my job to pursue my passion of open source scientific devices, and your support goes directly towards furthering this project.
I just received the first visible result of your help – a shipment of components. These are mostly op-amps, voltage regulators (silver bags on the left), capacitors, and piezo disks (clear bags on the right). This shipment will solve several power supply and signal issues – - the +2.5V signal will actually be +2.5V now, significant improvement over the unreliable voltage divider I was using previously.
I’ve been asked this question a few times in the past week – how can someone support the Chemhacker STM project?
Here’s the easiest way: purchase a periodic table! I designed them myself, they are accurate to 5 significant figures and even contain Copernicium, the newest element! You can’t do chemistry without a periodic table.
So if you’re having trouble combating sentient grey goo, you should support the Chemhacker STM project by purchasing a periodic table!
I’m delighted to announce that I’m an applicant to the Open Hardware Scholarship. It’s a grant of over $2000 for the completion of an open hardware project. Without going into boring personal finance details, $2000 will allow me to more rapidly push the Open Source Scanning Tunneling Microscope project to the public beta stage.
The scholarship award will be chosen by votes, so please visit the Open Hardware Scholarship voting page (I’m the fifth one down on the left side of the page) in the next 24 hours (voting ends September 15th 6pm EST) and vote for the project you feel is most deserving of a grant (hopefully this one).
Here is my 30 second application video (no, it’s not easy explaining this project with only 30 seconds and 500 characters):
UPDATE 2: thanks so very much for all the votes everyone! Sadly, microscopes lose to hydroponics. Winners list at openhardwaresummit.org.
It’s now been a year since I first decided to start building an STM in my spare time – this project has taken me all over the country and I’ve learned a huge amount.
I haven’t had much to talk about lately because:
1) I’ve been focusing on hardware upgrades that improve efficiency and speed in not-immediately-obvious ways (look for the teensy at the botom of the picture, and the shiny new chips near it).
2) Since I’m working on signal path stuff, I had a pause while my new DSO nano (at the top of the photo) shipped from overseas.
3) I’ve been completing otherprojects so I can refocus on the Z signal path with fewer distractions.
Thanks very much to my friends Mitch Altman, Jordan Bunker, Camo, Steve Finklestein, Ian Spielman, and everyone else who took me seriously enough to help me push this project down the road towards reality in 2010! Here’s to a productive 2011!
I just finished building the version 0.1.5 machine.
Here’s what I’ve been working on during the past month and a half:
Fixed EAGLE routing flaws (thanks Dorkbot Chicago for a very timely EAGLE CAD class!)
Fixed part specification flaws (it turns out that the digital pots I originally used can’t handle much more than 8V, I was giving them 18V – oops!)
Built a completely new test machine from scratch, by hand (not as bad as I originally feared)
Started an arduino shield based design (using adafruit’s excellent protoshield as a starting point)
Started testing the MCP4912 DAC as a replacement for the dual 4911s, I’m currently using.
Switched from arduino duemilanove to freeduino/boarduino for physical design improvements (I’d like to use the UNO, but I’m waiting/hoping for improvements in the USB functionality of that board before switching).
Added a fast prototyping area for experiments.
Stopped using magnets as fasteners for the scanning head – those were awful.
Built a completely new physical support with improved tripd geometry and stability.
Redesign the X/Y signal pathway to use the full +/- 9V range and be flexible enough to handle +/- 18V via switch and/or gain adjust (I’m only using +/- 5V now, and it’s not flexible at all).
Redesign the transimpedance amp pathway to improve signal/noise ratio and gain.
Investigate alternative approach mechanism designs.
Reminder: I’ll be showing the ChemHackerSTM version 0.1.5 at the Armand Hammer Museum in LA on Saturday afternoon/evening as part of CRITTER Salon’s Enormous Microscopic Evening.
This project is not dead, it’s just pining for the fjords!
Actually, I’ve been up to my neck in:
rebuilding the circuit from scratch
This is all stuff that is slow and relatively unglamorous.
I’ve been working frantically because I’ll be in LA next weekend showing the microscope at the Enormous Microscopic Evening at the Armand Hammer Museum in UCLA on November 6th at 4pm, and I’d really like to have version 0.2 ready for the exhibit.
I’ve learned a lot in the past month – notably that I had made a few poor design assumptions (now thankfully corrected).
Many thanks to everyone for being patient, everyone who has helped me with debugging and redesign, and to CRITTER salon for inviting me to the Enormous Microscopic Evening!
Dear everyone who wants to know when the Scanning Tunneling Microscope kits are for sale:
I’m so incredibly happy for your interest in this project! I’m working as fast as I can – beta kits should be available within six months (sooner if at all possible). In the meantime, please sign up on the form below to find out when kits are available…
Thanks so much!
(if the google form below does not load, please go here)