SU-8 hollow cantilevers for AFM cell adhesion studies

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A novel fabrication method was established to produce flexible, transparent, and robust tipless hollow atomic force microscopy (AFM) cantilevers made entirely from SU-8. Channels of 3 μm thickness and several millimeters length were integrated into 12 μm thick and 40 μm wide cantilevers. Connected to a pressure controller, the devices showed high sealing performance with no leakage up to 6 bars. Changing the cantilever lengths from 100 μm to 500 μm among the same wafer allowed the targeting of various spring constants ranging from 0.5 to 80 N m-1 within a single fabrication run. These hollow polymeric AFM cantilevers were operated in the optical beam deflection configuration. To demonstrate the performance of the device, single-cell force spectroscopy experiments were performed with a single probe detaching in a serial protocol more than 100 Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast cells from plain glass and glass coated with polydopamine while measuring adhesion forces in the sub-nanoNewton range. SU-8 now offers a new alternative to conventional silicon-based hollow cantilevers with more flexibility in terms of complex geometric design and surface chemistry modification.