High-sensitivity imaging with lateral resonance mode atomic force microscopy†
In the operation of a dynamic mode atomic force microscope, a micro-fabricated rectangular cantilever is typically oscillated at or near its mechanical resonance frequency. Lateral bending resonances of cantilevers are rarely used because the resonances are not expected to be detected by the beam-deflection method. In this work, we found that micro-cantilevers with a large tip produced an out-of-plane displacement in lateral resonance (LR), which could be detected with the beam-deflection method. Finite-element analysis indicated that the presence of a large tip is the major source of the out-of-plane coupling for the LR. We also imaged a heterogeneous sample by operating a cantilever in LR, torsional resonance, and tapping modes. LR mode yielded a small deformation and noise level in the height maps as well as a high contrast and small noise level in the phase maps. LR mode also had a resonance frequency that was orders of magnitude higher than that of tapping mode. Operation with LR mode may have the benefits of high-speed scanning, high-sensitivity imaging, and mapping of in-plane mechanical properties of the sample surface. In general, LR mode may become a powerful new atomic force microscopy technique for characterizing sample materials.