OptiCool Has Been Used for Near-field Optical Microscopy For the First Time Ever

The OptiCool by Quantum Design is an optical cryostat using an innovative design that puts the sample volume in the heart of your optical environment. And one of our users has been the first person to ever attempt to use the OptiCool in a completely different way. Read on to discover the journey to this unprecedented use of the award-winning optical cryostat from Quantum Design.

A custom 3.8 inch bore, split-coil, conical magnet offers fields perpendicular to the optical table up to ±7 tesla. The highly integrated design means, even with a magnet, your sample isn’t buried inside a large cryostat, far away from the optics. Seven side optical ports and one top optical port allow for optical access to your sample from a wide array of directions.

Professor Richard Averitt, Physics Department, UC San Diego

“My area is condensed matter physics, and I use lasers to study the property of materials. I’ve had a great working relationship with Quantum Design. I started work with them incorporating the VersaLab into our undergraduate curriculum here. And so that VersaLab has been running for the better part of eight years. So it’s natural then that, having magnetic fields that this OptiCool opportunity arose. In terms of the research we’ve done in the OptiCool up to this point, has been primarily what we would call all-optical pump-probe spectroscopy; where we’re bringing in different beams in the visible or infrared range. But a lot of my research over the years has been in the far infrared or terahertz. So I think that the OptiCool provides a really excellent opportunity to do novel far infrared spectroscopy on materials in a magnetic field environment. The OptiCool has really nice optical access because the sorts of experiments we do, we have to bring in multiple optical beams to be able to excite a sample and then probe these dynamics in a time resolved fashion.”

“The magnetic field allows us to tune the properties of the materials and then look at the dynamics of the materials that we’re studying as a function of magnetic field and, of course, as a function of temperature. So just the ability to have these degrees of freedom when we’re doing these dynamic studies of quasiparticles inside of solids, it’s very powerful.”

“The automation of the OptiCool really facilitates these measurements. In fact, the first student who started working with this when we had it installed he quickly integrated the OptiCool software with our data acquisition software that we use for these optical measurements. And so everything became very user-friendly. We can just take continuous data and really get high quality data, run overnight. We can get more data per unit time than we would be able to do if the software wasn’t so easy to use.”

“I’ve had some fantastic response and excitement from colleagues at conferences and other talks at universities when I describe what we’re doing with the OptiCool. Over the past several years, I’ve talked to a lot of colleagues and collaborators and even former students who’ve also adopted OptiCool for their research. What’s really exciting about this is the versatility, because I can do my thing, but the amount of research that’s going on using magnetic fields is much broader that just what I do. It’s fantastic to see these other groups implementing the OptiCool in completely different ways.”

Prof. Richard Averitt, Physics Department, UC San Diego

One of those using the OptiCool in new and inventive ways is Mengkun Liu, a former student of Richard Averitt…

Mengkun Liu, Associate Professor, Stony Brook University

“I work with near-field optical microscopy, an optical microscope that beats the diffraction limits so we can look at optical properties of materials at nanoscale. So this is actually a combination of optics and scanning probe microscopy. Rick Averitt my phD advisor spoke very highly of the OptiCool and then I talked to many colleagues. They suggested that this might be possible for scanning probes. I’m looking for a closed-cycle system which will be ultra stable, especially for the scanning probe.”

“So I had my first OptiCool in 2020. That was for me, at that time, a little bit risky because no-one had done a scanning probe in an OptiCool. But we did it in 2021 and we liked it so much that we actually purchased another one in 2022!”

“The OptiCool really is the unique system that fits into my particular research. The OptiCool has a total of eight windows and seven side windows. So we can choose whatever ports we want to send the light into. And we can set up a camera from the top so that we can see what’s going on in our scanning probes. This is great for our alignment, for the optics. You can align your optics to the tip, through the top window, and then send infrared or terahertz light in from the side windows. And we are amazed by the stability at low temperature, when the cryo pumping is on. So we have ultra-stable AFM performance even at low temperature.”

“There’s basically no other products on the market, that I’m aware of, that can do this better than the OptiCool. Experts from different fields, from AFM groups or STM groups or from Optics groups, they’re all very interested. I think the main feature that they find interesting is how open the system is and how big you can put this sample core in. We actually put two sample stages or piezo stages inside of the mechanism. I think most people are amazed by this fact – just how compact and big it is at the same time.”

This is actually a game-changer for us, because now we can use a helium-free system. Once you start to use this system it’s really hard to go back to the open-cycle systems.

Discover what the OptiCool could do for your lab!

Contact our Technical Sales Manager, Dr. Luke Nicholls by email or call (01372) 378822 today to discuss this powerful solution to your research challenges.

Keep up to date with our latest product news and developments. Join our mailing list

Follow us:


Keep up to date with our latest product news and developments. Join our mailing list