Insight into mechanics of AFM tip-based nanomachining: bending of cantilevers and machined grooves

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Al-Musawi, Raheem ; Brousseau, Emmanuel ; Geng, Yanquan ; Borodich, Feodor (2016)

Atomic force microscope (AFM) tip-based nanomachining is currently the object of intense research investigations. Values of the load applied to the tip at the free end of the AFM cantilever probe used for nanomachining are always large enough to induce plastic deformation on the specimen surface contrary to the small load values used for the conventional contact mode AFM imaging. This study describes an important phenomenon specific for AFM nanomachining in the forward direction: under certain processing conditions, the deformed shape of the cantilever probe may change from a convex to a concave orientation. The phenomenon can principally change the depth and width of grooves machined, e.g. the grooves machined on a single crystal copper specimen may increase by 50% on average following such a change in the deformed shape of the cantilever. It is argued that this phenomenon can take place even when the AFM-based tool is operated in the so-called force-controlled mode. The study involves the refined theoretical analysis of cantilever probe bending, the analysis of experimental signals monitored during the backward and forward AFM tip-based machining and the inspection of the topography of produced grooves.
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