Indexed on: 05 May '07Published on: 05 May '07Published in: The Review of scientific instruments
We present here an experimental setup and suggest an extension to the long existing added-mass method for the calibration of the spring constant of atomic force microscope cantilevers. Instead of measuring the resonance frequency shift that results from attaching particles of known masses to the end of cantilevers, we load them with water microdrops generated by a commercial inkjet dispenser. Such a device is capable of generating drops, and thus masses, of extremely reproducible size. This makes it an ideal tool for calibration tasks. Moreover, the major advantage of water microdrops is that they allow for a nearly contactless calibration: no mechanical micromanipulation of particles on cantilevers is required, neither for their deposition nor for removal. After some seconds the water drop is completely evaporated, and no residues are left on the cantilever surface or tip. We present two variants: we vary the size of the drops and deposit them at the free end of the cantilever, or we keep the size of the drops constant and vary their position along the cantilever. For the second variant, we implemented also numerical simulations. Spring constants measured by this method are comparable to results obtained by the thermal noise method, as we demonstrate for six different cantilevers.