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PicoQ Sensors are Superior to Capacitive Sensors

Featured Product from Mad City Labs, Inc.

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PicoQ® Sensors are Superior to Capacitive Sensors
Mad City Labs'  exclusive PicoQ® sensor technology minimizes position noise for the highest positioning resolution in the industry. Our high performance stages have moved beyond the realm of piezo nanopositioning into picopositioning, leaving former competitors behind. Legacy capacitive sensors cannot achieve picometer resolution. The position noise power spectrum of the Nano-METZ is shown below left. Positioners with PicoQ® senors exhibit noise floors in the femtometer/√Hz range and positioning resolution in the picometer range. Below right is a plot of the Nano-HS3M performing a 20 picometer peak-to-peak sine wave using the 20 bit DAC in the Mad City Labs USB interface, while the sensor is being rmeasured by the 24 bit ADC. The least signficant bit of the DAC is 5 picometers, and is clearly resolvable. Legacy capacitive sensors cannot measure anything at this level. Our competitors simply cannot produce similar data, but as a customer, you should insist they show their noise power spectra.

Nano-METZ position noise power spectrum showing flat response at low frequencies with position noise floor of 400 femtometer/√Hz. 

Nano-HS3M Z-axis, input 20pm p-p 0.5Hz sine wave via Mad City Labs USB interface 20 bit DAC. Sensor measured using Mad City Labs USB interface 24bit ADC. Acquisition rate was 500Hz, averaged over 5 points. Measurement done in ambient conditions on a vibration isolation table with foam enclosure. 

PicoQ® Sensor Technology
Since their development in 1999 by Mad City Labs, PicoQ® sensors have been proven to be the ideal direct measurement position sensor for piezo nanopositioning applications, surpassing the capabilities of capacitive sensors in several critical performance areas. PicoQ® sensor technology has enabled Mad City Labs to manufacture the fastest, most stable, lowest noise, and lowest profile piezo nanopositioning systems available. Mad City Labs piezo nanopositioning systems using PicoQ® sensor technology can be found in world-leading research laboratories and as high reliability OEM components in the most demanding industries.

All Mad City Labs nanopositioning products are rigorously tested before shipment. These tests involve a series of measurements designed to fully characterize the performance of the nanopositioning system with a realistic environment and testing conditions that match the application. Available metrology tools include NIST-traceable interferometers, high resolution atomic force microscopes (AFM), and a high resolution position noise analyzer, designed specifically for nanopositioning characterization.

Design of precision motion systems requires all of these well-accepted metrology tools. Any customer with a precision motion application should be comfortable asking for technical information, including the fundamental noise performance of the nanopositioning system. Mad City Labs is willing to provide applicable data. PicoQ® sensor technology consistently excels during testing under various application-driven demands and in various environments.


  • Direct metrology position sensor
  • Lowest position noise
  • Ultra-stable at low frequencies
  • Temperature compensated
  • High accuracy and repeatability
  • Wide bandwidth
  • High speed
  • High resolution without bandwidth reduction
  • Extended cable lengths without performance loss


Mad City Labs, Inc
Mad City Labs, Inc has been a leading manufacturer of flexure based piezo nanopositioning systems capable of sub-nanometer positioning resolution since 1998. Our piezo nanopositioning product line covers the entire spectrum of piezo nanopositioning capabilities while maintaining a leadership role in multi-axis stages for high speed optical microscopy imaging. Mad City Labs engineers use 3D CAD and finite element analysis to produce piezo nanopositioners which combine long ranges of motion with exceptional linearity, orthogonality, and stability. Our in-house CNC machining centers and wire EDMs provide complete control of mechanical assembly production and allow Mad City Labs to design and fabricate custom systems with minimal engineering costs and short lead times. We deliver the tools for nanotechnology in 30 to 45 days and provide the highest level of customer service and satisfaction in the industry. We provide innovative and practical solutions for today’s demanding biotechnology and nanotechnology applications. Most Mad City Labs piezo nanopositioners can be controlled by our high speed USB 2.0 interface. Applications for nanopositioners include super resolution microscopy, high speed confocal imaging, AFM, NSOM, scanning probe microscopy, fiber positioning, single molecule spectroscopy, single molecule/particle tracking, high resolution optical alignment, SR optical microscopy, sub-diffraction limit microscopy, nanoscopy and lithography.