The company was built on the basis of GPI Laboratory of Surface Phenomena, with its unique expertise in developing and using surface analysis instruments and methods. The initial challenge to develop ultrahigh-vacuum STMs came from Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering observed in the process of copper and silver chlorination under ultrahigh vacuum conditions (Chem. Phys. Lett. 158 (1989) 271-273). In 1995, we carried out the first study of the surface at the atomic level in Russia (JETP Lett. 62 (1995) 444), and already in 1998 started commercial production of GPI 300, a full-functionality ultrahigh vacuum scanning tunneling microscope. The first GPI 300 was delivered to the University of Florence, Italy, and is still in operation there.

Sigma Scan was established later, in February 2002. In 2008, our GPI team created a prototype of an ultrahigh-vacuum low-temperature STM, operating at liquid helium temperatures. Currently it is commercially built by Sigma Scan under the name GPI CRYO.

In 2009, Sigma Scan developed a combined STM/AFM unit to be embedded in a scanning electron microscope to record the topography of selected objects with atomic resolution. The first such unit was built for Zeiss’s Supra 40 scanning electron microscope.

The biggest project currently in the pipeline is the development of a lab-level setup for constructing surface nanostructures, including functional electronic elements, with desired properties. The concept is based on controlling the topology and size of elements under ultrahigh (or extremely high) vacuum through a combination of scanning probe (SPM) and scanning electron (SEM) microscopes, high-precision (up to atomic scale) technological operations and local chemical reactions (in the area of the SPM probe).

We are also, in cooperation with GPI, making headways into nanolithography of silicon, based on electron-stimulated reactions in a layer of adsorbed chlorine, selective etching of AIIIBV semiconductors with molecular halogens and local surface metallization with the SPM probe.

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