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Accurate Spring Constant Calibration for very Stiff Atomic Force Microscopy Cantilevers



Scott Grutzik, Richard S. Gates, Yvonne B. Gerbig, Douglas T. Smith, Robert F. Cook, Alan Zehnder


There are many atomic force microscopy (AFM) applications that rely on quantifying the force between the AFM cantilever tip and the sample. The AFM does not explicitly measure force, however, so in such cases knowledge of the cantilever stiffness is required. In most cases, the forces of interest are very small, thus compliant cantilevers are used. A number of methods have been developed that are well suited to measuring low stiffness values. However, in some cases a cantilever with much greater stiffness is required. Thus, a direct, traceable method for calibrating very stiff (approximately 200 N/m) cantilevers is presented here. The method uses an instrumented and calibrated nanoindenter to determine the stiffness of a reference cantilever. This reference cantilever is then used to measure the stiffness of a number of AFM test cantilevers. This method is shown to have much smaller uncertainty than previously proposed methods. An example application to fracture testing of nanoscale silicon beam specimens is included.
Review of Scientific Instruments


AFM, calibration, cantilever, fracture, stiffness


Grutzik, S. , Gates, R. , Gerbig, Y. , Smith, D. , Cook, R. and Zehnder, A. (2013), Accurate Spring Constant Calibration for very Stiff Atomic Force Microscopy Cantilevers, Review of Scientific Instruments, [online], (Accessed April 12, 2024)
Created November 25, 2013, Updated October 12, 2021