Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology B: Microelectronics and Nanometer Structures

Scanning force microscopy in the dynamic mode using microfabricated capacitive sensors

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We report on the first successful operation of a scanning force microscope using microfabricated capacitive force sensors. The sensors, which are made from single crystal silicon on insulator wafers, consist of a cantilever spring with integrated tip at the free end and an electrically insulated counter electrode. Dynamic force gradient sensing is the preferred operating mode. Here, tip-sample interactions are detected by letting the sensor act as a resonator in a phase controlled oscillator setup and measuring corresponding shifts of the oscillation frequency. Experiments were performed in vacuum using a standard tunneling microscope. A Cr grating on a quartz substrate served as the test sample. Topographic images showing details on a 10 nm scale were obtained operating at a constant force gradient of the order of 0.01 N/m. In addition, critical design parameters are discussed based on an analysis of the electromechanical properties of the sensors. © 1996 American Vacuum Society.