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Certification of Standard Reference Material® 3461 Reference Cantilevers for AFM Spring Constant Calibration



Richard S. Gates, William Alexander Osborn, Mark McLean, Gordon A. Shaw, James J. Filliben


A batch of 94 silicon chips containing arrays of uniform rectangular cantilevers were microfabricated from a single silicon wafer and their stiffnesses and resonance frequencies calibrated using a laser Doppler vibrometer (LDV). The cantilevers are 50 µm wide, (about the width of a human hair), and vary in length from 600 µm to 300 µm. They have stiffness values nominally ranging from 0.03 N/m to 0.2 N/m and nominal first flexural resonance frequencies in the range of 5 kHz to 21 kHz respectively. The LDV cantilever stiffness calibration measurements proved very reliable and combined expanded uncertainties better than ± 3% in stiffness were obtained for individual devices. These devices can be used as reference artifacts to validate atomic force microscopy (AFM) cantilever stiffness measurement methods as well as directly calibrating AFM test cantilever stiffness using the reference cantilever method. This NIST SP-260 provides details on the source and preparation of the devices as well as the analytical approach of using a laser Doppler vibrometer to accurately measure both stiffness (k), resonance frequency (f0), and Quality factor (Q) of each cantilever. The statistical analysis applied to the data sets is described. An example of the reference cantilever method is also provided for individuals wishing to use these devices to make direct calibrations of AFM test cantilevers.
Special Publication (NIST SP) - 260-227
Report Number


Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), Calibration, Cantilever, Electrostatic Force Balance (EFB), Laser Doppler Vibrometer (LDV), Microfabrication, Reference Cantilever Method, Thermal Calibration Method, Resonance Frequency, Standard Reference Material (SRM), Stiffness, Système International (SI).


Gates, R. , Osborn, W. , McLean, M. , Shaw, G. and Filliben, J. (2022), Certification of Standard Reference Material® 3461 Reference Cantilevers for AFM Spring Constant Calibration, Special Publication (NIST SP), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online],, (Accessed June 14, 2024)


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Created August 15, 2022, Updated November 29, 2022