Automated SPM imaging and image analysis

When I first started my PhD my project was to write software which allowed STMs to automatically collect atomic resolution images without a user present. Anyone who has tried atomic resolution SPM has felt the pain of trying to get the tip in a state where it can take images. Spending often hours on end with a computer screen showing nothing but noise.

We have had some success with automating atomic resolution imaging in both vacuum and ambient conditions:

Progress of automate STM imaging of the Si (111) 7x7 reconstruction in vacuum. Imaging progresses from noise to atomic resolution.

Progress of automate STM imaging of the Si (111) 7×7 reconstruction in vacuum. Imaging progresses from noise to atomic resolution.

This work required special image analysis routines to be written to assess the images generated. These image analysis routines have been released open-source as a MATLAB toolbox called SPIW.

The automated imaging work on graphite was published in Applied Physics Letters under the title: “Automated probe microscopy via evolutionary optimization at the atomic scale“.
(The paper is NOT open access, however, the publishers have kindly allowed me to provide a free copy here: PDF).
A detailed overview of the toolbox SPIW was published in the Review of Scientific instruments under the title: “Scanning probe image wizard: A toolbox for automated scanning probe microscopy data analysis“. (The paper is open access.)