AVI-400 Plus Installed with Carl Zeiss Sigma VP SEM
AVI-400 Plus Installed with Carl Zeiss Sigma VP SEM

Physics is the study of the fundamental forces which govern nature. Physics is the quintessential pure science.  Since the laws of physics govern the behavior of all matter and energy, they influence all the other scientific fields. Many early thinkers made contributions to the field of physics, but Aristotle is widely considered to be the father of the field with his publication of Physics in the fourth century BCE. Many of the biggest names in science gained their fame from their contributions to the understanding of physics, such as Newton, Einstein, and Hawkings. Today, physics has developed into one of the most complex and mystifying disciplines. It is being used to probe questions regarding the origin of the universe, the fundamental building blocks of existence, the behavior of celestial bodies, and the existence of other dimensions.

Engineering is the application of the insights from physics (and other disciplines) to solve real-world conundrums. It is where the rubber of science meets the road of problem-solving. Engineering can best be thought of as a discipline, a pattern of behavior, rather than a distinct scientific field in its own right. There are many specializations within the broader field of engineering – chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical to name a few. Many scientists who are employed in private industry are acting as engineers who are trying to improve products and processes. But to the extent that they use scientific principles to solve problems, it could be said that all scientists are engineers.



Physics is such a broad field that it is difficult to generalize about the discipline’s sensitivity to environmental noise. Some branches rely entirely on models, like theoretical physics, while some areas are highly reliant on experimental results, such as biophysics. It can safely be said that when these experiments are carried out on the nanoscale they are among the most sensitive applications in the world. For example, particle accelerators are used to probe the behavior of elementary particles and require a high degree of stability between their component parts. Ignoring vibration control in the assembly of these devices will lead to failure in the experiments.

The same can be said for engineering: some branches, like civil engineering, rely on models and calculations while other branches, like materials engineering, rely heavily on precision experimentation. Many engineers integrate custom instrumentation to probe very specific questions about a system’s properties. Often, experimental set-ups will involve manipulation or alteration of materials. Both of these factors will increase noise sensitivity when present. For such experiments, a supplementary vibration isolation system and soundproof hood should be employed to ensure accurate results.

It should be noted that instrument design is a form of engineering. Engineers tasked with integrating and constructing commercial instruments must take into account the sensitivities of the analytical method and structure of the instrument. Eliminating intrinsic noise at the structural level of an instrument can, at best, consume a lot of time and, at worst, compromise the instrument’s performance. It is usually advisable to leave the noise concerns to the experts by adding a high performance acoustic enclosure and/or active vibration control system in the later stages of instrument design.

Stanford AFM Noise Performance Comparison