Scanning probe microscope (SPM) brings human into the atomic world. Human can observe atomic arrangement.
The atomic manipulation can be realized according to the human intention. Materials can be processed in the
nanometer scale. Single atom, single molecule and single electronic production can be accomplished. SPM also plays important
roles, such as genetic engineering, life science, materials science, biology technology, surface technology, etc.
Firstly, this paper reviews the history of SPM series, including Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM), Atomic Force
Microscope (AFM), Scanning Ion Conductance Microscope (SICM), Force Modulation Microscope (FMM), Phase Detection
Microscope (PDM), Electrostatic Force Microscope (EFM), Scanning Capacitance Microscope (SCM), Scanning
Thermal Microscope (SThM) and Near field Scanning Optical Microscope (NSOM). Secondly, it introduces their principles,
main characteristics and recent patent about SPM. Then, it discusses the applications of SPM, especially in the molecular
manipulation, nano processing, genetic engineering, single molecular device and information storage. The existing
problems and solutions of SPM are also presented. The emphasis lies in the improvement of the scanning velocity with
the hardware design and software algorithm. Finally, it summarizes SPM main directions.