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Sensors 2016, 16(4), 523;

In situ Stiffness Adjustment of AFM Probes by Two Orders of Magnitude

Department of Precision and Microsystems Engineering (PME), Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering (3mE), Delft University of Technology, Mekelweg 2, 2628 CD Delft, The Netherlands
DENSsolutions BV, Informaticalaan 12, 2628ZD Delft, The Netherlands
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Vittorio M. N. Passaro
Received: 5 February 2016 / Revised: 21 March 2016 / Accepted: 24 March 2016 / Published: 12 April 2016
(This article belongs to the Section Physical Sensors)
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The choice on which type of cantilever to use for Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) depends on the type of the experiment being done. Typically, the cantilever has to be exchanged when a different stiffness is required and the entire alignment has to be repeated. In the present work, a method to adjust the stiffness in situ of a commercial AFM cantilever is developed. The adjustment is achieved by changing the effective length of the cantilever by electrostatic pull-in. By applying a voltage between the cantilever and an electrode (with an insulating layer at the point of contact), the cantilever snaps to the electrode, reducing the cantilever’s effective length. An analytical model was developed to find the pull-in voltage of the system. Subsequently, a finite element model was developed to study the pull-in behavior. The working principle of this concept is demonstrated with a proof-of-concept experiment. The electrode was positioned close to the cantilever by using a robotic nanomanipulator. To confirm the change in stiffness, the fundamental resonance frequency of the cantilever was measured for varying electrode positions. The results match with the theoretical expectations. The stiffness was adjusted in situ in the range of 0.2 N/m to 27 N/m, covering two orders of magnitude in one single cantilever. This proof-of-concept is the first step towards a micro fabricated prototype, that integrates the electrode positioning system and cantilever that can be used for actual AFM experiments. View Full-Text
Keywords: stiffness; adjustable stiffness; stiffness tuning; AFM; Atomic Force Microscope stiffness; adjustable stiffness; stiffness tuning; AFM; Atomic Force Microscope

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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de Laat, M.L.C.; Pérez Garza, H.H.; Ghatkesar, M.K. In situ Stiffness Adjustment of AFM Probes by Two Orders of Magnitude. Sensors 2016, 16, 523.

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