AFM Tips

+ How is nGauge different from a conventional AFM?

nGauge AFM chips are tiny moving machines called MEMS. These microscopic devices have moving parts capable of positioning an integrated tip with high precision in the X, Y, and Z directions. The AFM chips also integrate a piezoresistive sensor for measuring tip-sample interaction forces. Conventional AFMs use individual external X, Y, and Z piezoelectric scanners to position a separate tip using an external laser sensing system. See our Intro Blog or our Scaling Blog for more details.

+ How long does a tip last?

It's difficult to pinpoint the exact lifetime of a tip. The tips have been shown to last for over 10,000 images on the same sample without visible wear. The number of approaches and the resolution of the scans, will affect the lifetime. More details can be found in our blog post on tip wear.

+ How do you replace the tip?

Unlike conventional AFMs where you would replace only the tip when it breaks or wears out, single-chip AFMs are fully integrated but designed to be disposable. If the chip were to break, simply swap the AFM chip out for a new one. This means that every time you replace the chip you get a brand new tip as well as fresh scanners and sensors. As new breakthroughs in chip design occur, you will always be able to stay up to date with the latest improvements in tip shape, scan range, scanner linearity, and sensor performance.

+ How much does it cost to replace the chip?

The cost of an nGauge AFM chip starts at $200 US each in packs of 12. Smaller quantities can also be purchased on our online store. Contact us for volume pricing.


+ What scanning modes are available?

The nGauge AFM operates in tapping mode. Topography, phase, and error images are produced during a scan.

The manufacturing process used to make nGauge AFM chips allows for the design of a large variety of SPM modes. We have prototypes of scanning thermal microscopy (SThM), scanning microwave microscopy (SMM), Kelvin Probe force microscopy (KPFM), and FM-AFM (frequency-modulation), and all chips have a conductive path to the tip which could support electrical sensing modes. Contact us or sign up to our mailing list if you are interested in other SPM modes.

+ How fast does it scan?

Relatively flat samples allow scan speeds of up to 16 Hz, meaning a 256x256 pixel image will take 16 seconds. Larger sample features require a larger controller effort and more time. A 256x256 pixel image of a typical DVD sample (100 nm tall features on a 750 nm pitch) takes about 2 minutes.

+ Can I image in liquid or vacuum?

These modes are not supported yet. Sign up to our mailing list or contact us if you are interested in these modes.

+ Can I image graphene or other single-atom materials?

The maximum RMS noise in the vertical direction is 1 nm, so features smaller than 1 nm cannot currently be measured with the nGauge. We are constantly improving the nGauge. Sign up to our mailing list if you would like to keep up to date.

Force-distance and nanoindentation

+ Can the nGauge generate force-distance curves?

The nGauge operates in tapping mode (a non-contact mode) only, which means that force-distance curves cannot be generate directly. However, the nGauge can generate amplitude-distance and phase-distance curves, which can be used to reconstruct force-distance curves. A paper by Hu and Raman explains the process: Inverting amplitude and phase to reconstruct tip–sample interaction forces in tapping mode atomic force microscopy by Hu and Raman (2008) (https://stacks.iop.org/Nano/19/375704) Contact us if you are interested in generating force-distance curves.

+ Can I perform nanoindentation studies with the nGauge?

The nGauge operates in tapping mode (a non-contact mode) only so it cannot be used to perform nanoindentation, which requires contact mode operation. Contact us if you are interested in keeping up to date with our progress.


+ Do you ship internationally?

Yes we do. Please contact us for exact shipping fees.