Nature is the best example of a system functioning on the nanometer scale, wherethematerialsinvolved,energyconsumption,anddatahandlingareop- mized. Opening the doors to the nanoworld, the emergence of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1982 and the atomic force microscope in 1986 led to a shift of paradigmin the understanding and perception of matter at its most fundamentallevel. As aconsequence,newrevolutionaryconceptsstimulateda number of new technologies. The current volume Scanning Probe Methods in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology showsthat these methods arestill making a tremendous impact on many disciplines that range from fundamental physics andchemistry throughinformationtechnology,spintronics,quantumcomp- ing, and molecular electronics, all the way to life sciences. Indeed, over 6,000 AFM-related papers were published in 2008 alone, bringing the total to more than 70,000 since its invention, according to the web of science, and the STM has inspired a total of 20,000 papers. There are also more than 500 patents related to the various forms of scanning probe microscopes.
Commerciali- tion of the technology started at the end of the 1980s, and approximately 12,000 commercial systems have been sold so far to customers in areas as diverse as fundamental research,the car industry, and even the fashion ind- try. There are also a signi?cant number of home-built systems in operation. Some60-80companiesareinvolvedinmanufacturingSPMandrelatedinst- ments. Indeed, not even the sky seems to be the limit for AFM technology. TheRosettamissiontocomet67Plaunchedbythe EuropeanSpaceAgencyin 2004 includes an AFM in its MIDAS (Micro-Imaging Dust Analysis System) instrument.