Interview: Qi Chen
Can you briefly introduce your research institute and your research topics?
I currently work at the Suzhou Institute of Nanotechnology and Nano-Bionics (SINANO) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). I work for the research team of Prof. Chen Liwei, a subsidiary of the International Laboratory for Adaptive Bio-nanotechnology (iLab) founded by Prof. Yang Peidong, who is mainly engaged in the research of Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM) technology for energy nanodevices.
For your experiments, what do you expect from a great lock-in amplifier? What are the most important features that you are looking for when choosing such an instrument?
We are committed to the development of quantitative scanning probe technology in situ conditions to study the effects of complex interfaces on charge transport in energy nanodevices, and to understand device behavior. In the experiment, we need multiple lock-in amplifiers, combined with a signal generator, phase-locked loop, PID, oscilloscope and home-built circuitry. It used to take a lot of time to connect the circuit and confirm that it can run stably. Therefore, we were specifically looking for a lock-in amplifier that integrates the above modules and performs a high signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio.
How did the Zurich Instruments’ lock-in amplifiers proved to be the suitable instrumentation for your research?
We discovered the Zurich Instruments' lock-in amplifiers through reading Dr. Romain Stomp's blog on the company's website. He used the Frequency-Modulated Kelvin Probe Force Microscope (FM-KPFM) as an example to demonstrate the powerful functions of the HF2LI. This kind of product is what I have always needed. On the one hand, my research often requires the use of probe high-order oscillation mode (~MHz). Other products usually use an external reference to improve data processing accuracy, whereas the HF2LI uses an internal reference to show better Frequency & Drive accuracy. That improves on Amplitude and Phase accuracy. On the other hand, I need for my research to select Atomic Force Microscopes (AFM) from different manufacturers according to the device characteristics of various systems. HF2LI's rich modular configuration and integrated design allow me to easily implement a wide range of KPFM modes on any device. The LabOne graphical user interface design of the HF2LI makes it easier for my students to understand the whole process of signal processing.
What are your expectations for scientific instruments in general? How complicated is it to make the right purchasing decision in terms of technical requirements?
Purchasing scientific instruments usually requires a complicated configuration list, and different manufacturers cannot harmonize all requirements in a single product. The Zurich Instruments' UHFLI/HF2LI and other products made it easy for me to implement multiple functional imaging modes on various manufacturers' AFM devices, freeing them from complex configuration tables.
After all the work, how do you rest in your free time?
In my spare time, I like to do exercise, such as skipping, running, etc. In addition, I go to the movies to relax. I like to think deeper and contemplate the director’s motives and the way a movie is edited :)