Tuning forks offer significant advantages and increased sensitivity over conventional Si probes in large part due to their high quality factors (Q of 10x and higher.)   Tuning forks in force spectroscopy have especially begun to show exciting results that push the measurement's possibilities.  Over the last decade, Nanonics has developed instruments using a NanoToolKit of such probes that are increasingly being used with on-line forcespectroscopy.  A demonstration of the force sensitivity of these probes is the measurement of 1.6 pN for the force of a single photon. [D. C. Kohlgraf-Owens et al "Mapping the mechanical action of light," Phys. Rev. A 84, 011807R (2011)]

Besides force sensitivity, tuning forks offer other advantages over optical beam deflection and conventional Si probes.  Tuning forks have much stiffer (spring constant of ~2600 N/m and greater) than standard silicon cantilevers.  As a result, the problem of "jump to contact" instability that limits the optical beam deflection based feedback methods is eliminated, and this permits the study of forces in the proximal 10-20 nm above a surface.  Smooth approach curves together with lack of adhesion ringing upon withdrawal is combined with additional advantages of no feedback laser interference; these features are important for semiconductor electrical probing and combinations of AFM with Raman spectroscopy that Nanonics has pioneered.  Furthermore, tuning forks in force spectroscopy enable the point of contact with the surface to be accurately measured for the first time.  For all these reasons and its ease of use, tuning forks are becoming an ideal choice for new horizons in experiments requiring the ultimate tip-sample control stability and force sensitivity from areas of bioimaging, to physics of devices, and to single molecule and polymer spectroscopy.


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