Fabrication and buckling dynamics of nanoneedle AFM probes

Nanotechnology. 2011 Apr 29;22(17):175303. doi: 10.1088/0957-4484/22/17/175303. Epub 2011 Mar 16.


A new method for the fabrication of high-aspect-ratio probes by electron beam induced deposition is described. This technique allows the fabrication of cylindrical 'nanoneedle' structures on the atomic force microscope (AFM) probe tip which can be used for accurate imaging of surfaces with high steep features. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) imaging showed that needles with diameters in the range of 18-100 nm could be obtained by this technique. The needles were shown to undergo buckling deformation under large tip-sample forces. The deformation was observed to recover elastically under vertical deformations of up to ∼ 60% of the needle length, preventing damage to the needle. A technique of stabilizing the needle against buckling by coating it with additional electron beam deposited carbon was also investigated; it was shown that coated needles of 75 nm or greater total diameter did not buckle even under tip-sample forces of ∼ 1.5 µN.