SBIR Phase II: Integrated Thermal Scanning Probe Development

Period of Performance: 01/01/2013 - 12/31/2013


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

415 Clyde Avenue, Suite 102
Mountain View, CA 94043
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project aims to commercialize a unique scanning probe capable of mapping thermal properties with nanoscale resolution. A large number of physical science, engineering, and biological materials and phenomena require thermal conductivity and temperature measurements with high spatial resolution and sensitivity. Yet such measurements are challenging, with conventional thermal probe technology limited to a lateral resolution of only about 100 nanometers. This phase II project will overcome the major challenges of scanning thermal microscopy. The intellectual merits of the proposed activity are related to new and innovative designs and processes to realize thermal sensing elements integrated into a scanning probe design. This design maximizes heat flow from a sample to the probe while minimizing background heat transfer to areas away from the sensor. These devices will be nanofabricated using both unique and scalable semiconductor processing techniques to minimize the cost of manufacturing and ensure repeatability and reproducibility. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is the availability of a high resolution thermal measurement tool which will enable scientists and engineers to investigate new materials and develop next-generation products. In the semiconductor industry, the tool will aid in process monitoring, material characterization, and failure analysis. The data storage industry will find applications ranging from mapping thermal effects on recording head "fly heights" to the characterization of recording technologies incorporating integrated laser pulsing to the investigation of superparamagnetic effects which limit areal densities. These are both multi-billion dollar industries that have broad impacts on society. Moreover, applications of this new technology will be geared towards soft-structure thermal mapping, which is not possible with current technologies because of large probe size. These measurements will also be ideally suited for medical research. For example, thermal microscopy of heated gold nanospheres localized in tumors and magnetic nanoparticle tracking inside cellular structures under radio frequency magnetic fields are areas where the impact of this technology will be very high. Such research has the potential to improve therapeutic interventions targeting a number of diseases.