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Atomic Force Microscope Cantilever Flexural Stiffness Calibration: Toward a Standard Traceable Method



Richard S. Gates, Mark Reitsma, John A. Kramar, Jon R. Pratt


The evolution of the atomic force microscope into a useful tool for measuring mechanical properties of surfaces at the nanoscale has spurred the need for more precise and accurate methods for calibrating the spring constants of test cantilevers. Groups within international standards organizations such as the International Organization for Standardization and the Versailles project on Advanced Materials and Standards (VAMAS) are conducting studies to determine which methods are best suited for these calibrations and to try to improve the reproducibility and accuracy of these measurements among different laboratories. This paper expands on a recent mini round robin within VAMAS Technical Working Area 29 to measure the spring constant of a single batch of triangular silicon nitride cantilevers sent to three international collaborators. Calibration techniques included reference cantilever, added mass, and two forms of thermal methods. Results are compared to measurements traceable to the International System of Units provided by an electrostatic force balance. A series of guidelines are also discussed for procedures that can improve the running of round robins in atomic force microscopy.
Journal of Research (NIST JRES) -


AFM, calibration, cantilever, spring constant, stiffness


Gates, R. , Reitsma, M. , Kramar, J. and Pratt, J. (2011), Atomic Force Microscope Cantilever Flexural Stiffness Calibration: Toward a Standard Traceable Method, Journal of Research (NIST JRES), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 30, 2024)


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Created July 1, 2011, Updated November 10, 2018