Design and fabrication of in-plane AFM probes with sharp silicon nitride tips based on refilling of anisotropically etched silicon moulds

J. Geerlings, Edin Sarajlic, Johan W. Berenschot, Martin Herman Siekman, Henricus V. Jansen, Leon Abelmann, Niels Roelof Tas

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7 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper a micromachining method for batch fabrication of in-plane atomic force microscope (AFM) probes that consist of a sharp silicon nitride tip on a monocrystalline silicon cantilever is presented. The tips are realized by conformal deposition of silicon nitride inside an anisotropically etched cavity inside a silicon wafer. The best measured radius of the sharp tips was 8 nm. Our fabrication method is fully compatible with silicon-on-insulator (SOI) micromachining, allowing a straightforward monolithic integration of the AFM probes with high-aspect-ratio monocrystalline silicon MEMS. The fabrication method allows for lateral cantilevers, which oscillate in the plane of the fabrication wafer. This allows for simple integration of micromechanical transducers, opening the way towards dedicated probes for high speed AFMs. To demonstrate the innovation potential of this method, three different probe designs were fabricated: a plane passive AFM probe, a probe with integrated electrostatic actuator, and a probe which allows scanning on vertical sidewalls. The passive probes were successfully tested in a commercial AFM set-up. Correct operation of the probes with integrated actuator was demonstrated by actuation under a laser vibrometer.
Original languageUndefined
Article number105013
Pages (from-to)105013
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of micromechanics and microengineering
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sep 2014


  • EWI-25132
  • Atomic force microscope
  • In-plane tip
  • Silicon nitride
  • IR-92129
  • KOH etching
  • Electrostatic actuator
  • METIS-306056
  • Video-rate

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