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A self-sensing and -actuating probe for dynamic mode atomic force microscopy (AFM) based on a commercial quartz tuning fork and a microfabricated cantilever is presented. The U-shaped cantilever, exhibiting a sharp tip, is combined with the tuning fork in a symmetrical arrangement, such that each of the two legs of the cantilever is fixed to one of the prongs of the tuning fork. The tuning fork is used as an oscillatory force sensor. Its frequency and amplitude govern that of the tip vibration, while the cantilever determines the spring constant of the whole probe. The frequency of the tip vibration for AFM operations can be much higher than the resonance frequency of the cantilever. A probe comprising a silicon nitride cantilever (0.1 N/m) is used to image monoatomic terraces of graphite in the intermittent contact mode. A much softer cantilever (0.01 N/m) is used to analyze the topography of a microelectronic chip in the same mode. Moreover, a bacterial surface layer hexagonally packed intermediate layer of Deinococcus radiodurans is imaged in a buffer solution. The tip vibration was again generated by the tuning fork while the sample interaction was measured using the standard optical detection scheme in this experiment. These probes are suited for batch fabrication and assembly and, therefore, enlarge the applications for the tuning fork based AFM. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.
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