Materials Research Activities

Calvin Quate

Calvin Quate: developing SPMs to meet commercial needs

One of the big names in the history of the development of SPMs in the 1990s is the Stanford Professor, Calvin Quate.

He was involved in the initial development of the atomic force microscope in 1986 with Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber. He has also continually been in touch with instrument businesses. Since 1990 he has been on the board of Tencor Instruments, and he has known Sang-il Park, the CEO of Park Instruments and Virgil Elings,co-founder of Digital Instruments for a long time. In 1995, the magazine Research & Development named him scientist of the year.

One of the interesting aspects of Quate's activities is that he personifies the connections between business and academia that have characterised much of the development centred upon Stanford University and Silicon Valley. Many of the important companies in the SPM business are located there: Park, Topometrix, Hitachi, and Tencor (in 1998 Park and

Topometrix joined forces as ThermoMicroscopes).

Calvin Quate is very much attuned to the needs of the market. Currently (February 2001) his webpage describes the major limitation of SPMs as limited throughput. "A major thrust of the work in our group is geared toward increasing throughput by scanning simultaneously with multiple probes all moving at high speeds.

When SPMs have made inroads into the industrial setting, such as the semiconductor industry, in the second half of the 1990s it is because they have made progress in terms of:

  • cleanliness (they must not contaminate the sample analysed)
  • ruggedness (clean rooms are notoriously noisy and thus contain much vibration)
  • user-friendliness
  • throughput

Quate has contributed to all of these, so that the above-mentioned Research & Development even called him the genius behind a (1995) $100 million industry. He is also modest: "I am not smart enough to be an academic. That's why I work on devices."

This page was last updated on February 12, 2001 by Arne Hessenbruch.