interacting with atomic structures

Today, physicists use Atomic Force Microscopes (AFMs) to obtain images of matter at a very small scale. An AFM is essentially a tiny mechanical probe that is moved on the sample of matter. The movement of the beam holding the probe is measured and translated into an visual representation (or topography) of the sample surface. The movement of the probe is controlled by a computer, and people only get to see the final image. When an Omega Haptic Device is connected to the AFM the operator can take over the control of the probe; the movement of the user's hand is scaled down one million times and applied to the probe. The deflection of the beam, which corresponds to a infinitesimal force, is scaled up one million times, and applied to the user's hand. The end-result is a nano-manipulator, by the means of which physicists can not only feel the shape of the surface of matter at the nanoscopic scale, but also scratch, cut or move structures (such as carbon nanotubes) in a predictive manner.