Minimizing tip-sample forces and enhancing sensitivity in atomic force microscopy with dynamically compliant cantilevers

Sasan Keyvani Janbahan, Hamed Sadeghian Marnani, Selman Tamer, Hans Goosen, Fred van Keulen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
162 Downloads (Pure)


Due to the harmonic motion of the cantilever in Tapping Mode Atomic Force Microscopy, it is seemingly impossible to estimate the tip-sample interactions from the motion of the cantilever. Not directly observing the interaction force, it is possible to damage the surface or the tip by applying an excessive mechanical load. The tip-sample interactions scale with the effective stiffness of the
probe. Thus, the reduction of the mechanical load is usually limited by the manufacturability of low stiffness probes. However, the one-to-one relationship between spring constant and applied force only holds when higher modes of the cantilever are not excited. In this paper, it is shown that, by passively tuning higher modes of the cantilever, it is possible to reduce the peak repulsive force.
These tuned probes can be dynamically more compliant than conventional probes with the same static spring constant. Both theoretical and experimental results show that a proper tuning of dynamic modes of cantilevers reduces the contact load and increases the sensitivity considerably.
Moreover, due to the contribution of higher modes, the tuned cantilevers provide more information on the tip-sample interaction. This extra information from the higher harmonics can be used for mapping and possibly identification of material properties of samples.
Original languageEnglish
Article number244505
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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