Glassy carbon is a graphenic form of elemental carbon obtained from pyrolysis of carbon-rich precursor polymers that can be patterned using various lithographic techniques. It is electrically and thermally conductive, mechanically strong, light, corrosion resistant and easy to functionalize. These properties render it very suitable for Carbon-microelectromechanical systems (Carbon-MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (Carbon-NEMS) applications. Here we report on the fabrication and characterization of fully operational, microfabricated glassy carbon nano-tips for Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). These tips are 3D-printed on to micro-machined silicon cantilevers by Two-Photon Polymerization (2PP) of acrylate-based photopolymers (commercially known as IP-series resists), followed by their carbonization employing controlled pyrolysis, which shrinks the patterned structure by ≥98% in volume. Tip performance and robustness during contact and dynamic AFM modes are validated by morphology and wear tests. The design and pyrolysis process optimization performed for this work indicate which parameters require special attention when IP-series polymers are used for the fabrication of Carbon-MEMS and NEMS. Microstructural characterization of the resulting material confirms that it features a frozen percolated network of graphene sheets accompanied by disordered carbon and voids, similar to typical glassy carbons. The presented facile fabrication method can be employed for obtaining a variety of 3D glassy carbon nanostructures starting from the stereolithographic designs provided by the user.
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