Cantilever arrays are employed to increase the throughput of imaging and manipulation at the nanoscale. We present a fabrication process to construct cantilever arrays with nanotips that show a uniform tip–sample distance. Such uniformity is crucial, because in many applications the cantilevers do not feature individual tip–sample spacing control. Uniform cantilever arrays lead to very similar tip–sample interaction within an array, enable non-contact modes for arrays and give better control over the load force in contact modes. The developed process flow uses a single mask to define both tips and cantilevers. An additional mask is required for the back side etch. The tips are self-aligned in the convex corner at the free end of each cantilever. Although we use standard optical contact lithography, we show that the convex corner can be sharpened to a nanometre scale radius by an isotropic underetch step. The process is robust and wafer-scale. The resonance frequencies of the cantilevers within an array are shown to be highly uniform with a relative standard error of 0.26% or lower. The tip–sample distance within an array of up to ten cantilevers is measured to have a standard error around 10 nm. An imaging demonstration using the AFM shows that all cantilevers in the array have a sharp tip with a radius below 10 nm. The process flow for the cantilever arrays finds application in probe-based nanolithography, probe-based data storage, nanomanufacturing and parallel scanning probe microscopy.
- TSTNE-Probe-AFM: Atomic Force Microscope
- TST-SMI: Formerly in EWI-SMI
- EC Grant Agreement nr.: FP6/034719
- TST-uSPAM: micro Scanning Probe Array Memory
- interfaces and thin films
- Nanoscale science and low-D systems
- Instrumentation and measurement