Edition Q1/2019


Welcome to the Q1 2019 newsletter!

We kick-off 2019 with two new videos that will help speed up and improve your lock-in amplifier measurements. Check out the 10 tips & tricks to avoid the most common pitfalls and squeeze out every bit of SNR from your signal, explained by Claudius.

Do not miss the latest LabOne release 18.12. Highlights include:


All users benefit from the most recent improvements free of charge.

On the impedance side, we have added new resources about Deep Level Transient Spectroscopy (DLTS). Check out the new application page with links to our

We also reached out to our customers, Qi Chen and Behraad Bahreini, to ask them about their research work and experience with our products. Read more about their experiments in the interviews.

And let's not forget about our user community focused initiatives - the Student Travel Grants 2019 and the upcoming SPM User Meeting. We invite you to engage and participate!

Tips & Tricks I: Boost your lock-in amplifier measurements

Watch our two new videos to learn, in just a few minutes, several methods to dramatically improve the results of your lock-in measurements.

  • The first video contains a practical checklist of best practices to ensure your input signal is well conditioned, and how to improve the quality of your external-reference lock.
  • The second is a deep-dive into low-pass filter settings. It has pragmatic advice on configuration approaches for your specific case.

6 tips to improve your lock-in measurements
Low-pass filter settings done right

New Product: HDAWG-PC Real-time Precompensation

Arbitrary waveform generator signals sometimes look, well, a bit arbitrary, when they arrive at the test device after passing through a long signal path. The new Real-time Precompensation for the HDAWG enables users to systematically minimize signal distortions introduced by the signal path. The example in the figure above demonstrates how AC coupling and spurious capacitances effects are inverted by the precompensation filter to generate a square pulse with high accuracy. If you own a HDAWG and wish to try out the feature, contact us.

Please check our website for more information.

Tips & Tricks II: Increase the data sampling rate on the MFIA and MFLI by gated data transfer

Tim Ashworth’s latest blog post explains how all MFLI and MFIA users can transfer data from the instrument to the computer up to eight times faster than the standard continuous streaming rate using gated data transfer. This should be of great interest for users measuring behavior at a high temporal resolution, such as for DLTS.

Application Know-how: Deep Level Transient Spectroscopy

Enjoy the premier application
on DLTS measurements
Check out the latest application page on Deep Level Transient Spectroscopy (DLTS). It’s a one-stop page with background information on DLTS, along with clear information on how the MFIA and MFLI can improve your DLTS results. It has quick access to related resources, such as blogs, application notes and application briefs - our new type of document to share know-how.

Get started here.

Interview: Qi Chen

Qi Chen researches energy nanodevices using the SPM technique at the Suzhou Institute of Nanotechnology and Nano-Bionics (SINANO) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)
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 :)

Interview: Behraad Bahreini

Behraad Bahreyni leads the Intelligent Sensing Laboratory at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada
Tell us about yourself and how you got to Vancouver?

Ever since I was a graduate student at the University of Manitoba, I have been working on microsystems. These miniaturized devices operate with small amounts of energy, and one needs suitable test equipment to study them. Measurement quality has always been a concern. I used lock-in amplifiers in many of my tests, not only for the improved noise performance but also to study nonlinear phenomena. I was in charge of developing interface circuits at Cambridge University. Later I worked for a company as an engineer before moving to Vancouver to take an academic role. For our research testing is part of the design process, so when we think about a new device, we include measurement considerations from the start.

You design devices for many application areas (on the website: IoT, Automotive, defense, biotech). What is your main focus?

Most of our works include resonators. However over the years the research focus has changed a lot. Maybe ten years ago we were looking at loss mechanisms at small scales and how they can be avoided. As the field progressed, we investigated the non-linearity and coupling of these resonators which is harder to understand. Our technological progress is motivated by fundamental studies, while the transfer to applications comes gradually over time. So it happens that communications, defense and automotive are the main focuses of our team.

What will the research trends be in the next 3-5 years in your opinion?

If for instance, you look at accelerometers in terms of absolute performance, there has been not much improvement in recent years. The limits of performance-to-cost on the physical side are reached in many cases. What is going to happen is increased investment in software and signal processing. The math and physics behind the operation of many such sensors have been worked out. With the availability of inexpensive computation, the research may evolve towards higher level of integration of multiple sensors (e.g. arrays) in order to collect more measurements per time unit and improve the performance through subsequent processing of those results. If you use parallel sensors your signal becomes stronger, and mathematically the noise floor goes down. Additionally, you can get gradients that give additional information.

Where does intelligence play a role with your sensors?

We have been working a long time on increasing the capability of our devices by improving mechanical or electronic designs. During my sabbatical in 2016 and having worked with the R&D of a company, where I tried to apply new concepts like sensor fusion and statistical signal processing to our designs. For us, this knowledge was partly new. Other people talk about machine learning or artificial intelligence when using such algorithms. But we are not data scientists and need to be careful with such terminology. However, we have evolved our sensors, since we know the physics, we know how these devices work, and now we have added some intelligence to extract more information from them.

What would be an ideal measurement instrument for you?

We like to have access to raw data. In many situations, this is preferred, and then we are ready to study the data. This is especially needed in the early stages of research. In other situations, software to treat the raw data is equally appreciated, which simplifies the related analyses. Then there are features enabled by the combination of hardware and software that we find essential, like multiple harmonic measurements. Actually, we like high performance (in terms of noise, dynamics, bandwidth) instrumentation that at the same time provides the flexibility to go beyond the original application. An example of this is the control of the data acquisition rate: short experiments (seconds) are as important as long measurements (weeks) without the need to end up with huge files. Therefore, we like features that provide flexibility.

What does your lab offer to new grad students?

Students come here to learn in a multi-disciplinary team. Moreover one needs to consider that the group is big and the opportunities for collaborations that derive from that are multifold. I can promise to our grad students that they will learn a lot with access to world-class facilities. We have truly multi-disciplinary research. After a couple of years in our lab, one learns about physics, mechanics, electronics, and signal processing. On the other hand, Vancouver is occasionally overtaken by Zurich and Vienna in the ranking for quality of living, but let's hold down that we've constantly been in the top 5 for the past 20 years. You will love Canada!

How do you achieve your work-life-balance?

I have decided that skiing would be a good way to end my life prematurely, so I did not invest into that. Being a professor, it is not easy to keep track of private interests, although some may do it better than others. For me it was essential to be there for my family and kids when the job permitted that. There are no set working hours in research, but definitely the freedom of choice to concentrate on what you want is worth the extra time I put in my career.

Student Travel Grants: Apply now!

With every new scientific advancement made by our customers, we get an extra boost in motivation for our own work. Therefore, it is important for us to celebrate and continuously support the scientific community. One such activity is our annual Zurich Instruments Student Travel Grants award. It enables 3 winners, young researchers, to attend a scientific conference.

The ground rules are simple - do you have a paper mentioning one of Zurich Instrument's products and are you a PhD or PostDoc researcher? Then apply before the deadline on June 30, 2019. For more details, click here!

Zurich Instruments User Meetings

The User Meetings realize our commitment to our customer community, and are fixed events in our team calendar. These meetings allow us to meet and exchange know-how with our users from the SPM and quantum community.

The latest Quantum User Meeting took place in London in November 2018 and was hosted by Prof. Mark Buitelaar from the UCL London. The meeting focused on quantum computing and quantum sensing. The program was filled with high-level scientific talks, practical tutorials, updates from Zurich Instruments on its quantum products, lab tours followed by a poster session and a social event. See the impressions from the meeting in Jelena Trbovic's blog.

We are already organizing the next meeting! The 3rd SPM User Meeting will take place in April 2019 and will be hosted by Prof. Christian Degen from the ETH Zurich. Let us know, if you want to receive news about the event or follow this page for regular updates and to register.

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Zurich Instruments is growing. Be on the cutting edge of technology, marketing or operations. We have exciting open positions, offering career opportunities that grow along with you:

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