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Rev Sci Instrum. 2013 Jan;84(1):013705. doi: 10.1063/1.4775717.

RTSPM: real-time Linux control software for scanning probe microscopy.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.


Real time computer control is an essential feature of scanning probe microscopes, which have become important tools for the characterization and investigation of nanometer scale samples. Most commercial (and some open-source) scanning probe data acquisition software uses digital signal processors to handle the real time data processing and control, which adds to the expense and complexity of the control software. We describe here scan control software that uses a single computer and a data acquisition card to acquire scan data. The computer runs an open-source real time Linux kernel, which permits fast acquisition and control while maintaining a responsive graphical user interface. Images from a simulated tuning-fork based microscope as well as a standard topographical sample are also presented, showing some of the capabilities of the software.

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