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Hollow AFM Cantilever with Holes
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1  Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania


Since its invention, atomic force microscopy (AFM) has enhanced our understanding of physical and biological systems at sub-micrometer scales. As the performance of AFM depends greatly on the properties of the cantilevers, many works have been done to improving cantilevers by means of modifying their geometries via lithography [1] and ion-beam milling [2,3] that primarily involved opening areas on the cantilever’s face, resulting in high resonant frequency, low spring constant, and low hydrodynamic damping. Similar improvements were achieved using a hollow beam cantilever with nanoscale wall thickness [4]. In fact, the combination of these two approaches (in-plane opening and hollow beam) can result in unique metamaterial structures with tunable properties [5], but it has not been explored for AFM application.

In this work, we explore the hollow AFM cantilevers with in-plane modifications. We accomplished this by (1) taking a commercial solid silicon cantilever, (2) making a different number of holes on the face using pulsed laser micromachining, and (3) coating them with alumina using atomic layer deposition and etching the internal silicon that results in a hollow probe with holes. We present the effects of these modifications on the cantilever’s resonant frequency, quality factor, and spring constant in air. This work provides an insight into strategies for tuning cantilever’s properties for both flexural and torsional modes.


[1] Nilsen, M.; Port, F.; Roos, M.; Gottschalk, K.-E.; Strehle, S. Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering 2019, 29, (2), 025014.

[2] Bull, M. S.; Sullan, R. M. A.; Li, H.; Perkins, T. T. ACS Nano 2014, 8, (5), 4984-4995.

[3] Hodges, A. R.; Bussmann, K. M.; Hoh, J. H. Review of Scientific Instruments 2001, 72, (10), 3880-3883.

[4] Cha, W.; Nicaise, S.; Lilley, D.; Lin, C.; Bargatin, I. Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems Workshop, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, 2018; Transducer Research Foundation: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, pp 232-233.

[5] Lin, C.; Nicaise, S. M.; Lilley, D. E.; Cortes, J.; Jiao, P.; Singh, J.; Azadi, M.; Lopez, G. G.; Metzler, M.; Purohit, P. K.; Bargatin, I. Nature Communications 2018, 9, (1), 4442.

[5] C. Lin, S. M. Nicaise, D. E. Lilley, J. Cortes, P. Jiao, J. Singh, et al., "Nanocardboard as a nanoscale analog of hollow sandwich plates," Nature Communications, vol. 9, p. 4442, 2018/10/25 2018.

Keywords: atomic force microscopy (AFM); flexural mode; torsional mode; hollow cantilever