nGauge AFM is now Available at nanoFAB

The nanoFAB is pleased to announce that the new Atomic Force Microscopy system, the ICSPI nGauge AFM, has been successfully installed and is operational now. This benchtop AFM allows nanoscale topography data collection with 3 easy steps: automatic sweep, approach, and scan. The nGauge AFM is a laserless system, based on a patented AFM-on-a-chip technology. In this new technology, all of the sensors and scanners of a traditional AFM have been integrated onto a single chip, so you can capture routine scans in just over a minute.

The nGauge AFM operates in the tapping mode and generates topography, phase, and error images simultaneously for any solid samples (including conductive and non-conductive, but not liquid samples). nGauge AFM tips are made of durable materials like diamond-like carbon (DLC) and aluminum oxide, which are also integrated onto the AFM chip, enabling hundreds (or thousands) of scans possible with each tip.

Figure 1. (a) The benchtop nGauge AFM. (b) AFM chip and its integrated components. (c) Front view of the Diamond-Like Carbon and Aluminum tips. (d) 3-step scan collection via nGauge AFM.

nGauge AFM Specifications:

  • Max scan area: 20 x 20 μm
  • Z Range: 10 μm
  • Scan speed: 80 seconds (256 x 256 pixel, 20 x 20 μm)
  • Max scan resolution: 1024 x 1024 pixels (5 minutes)
  • Noise floor: <0.5 nm rms
  • XY Scanner resolution: <0.5 nm
  • Images: Topography, Phase, Error
  • Approach: Automatic
  • Max sample size: 100 mm x 50 mm x 16 mm

Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) Tip Specification
nGauge AFM tips are made of diamond-like carbon materials with high aspect ratio offering excellent lateral resolution and excellent contamination resistance.

  • Tip radius: <20 nm
  • Tip height: >1 μm
  • Cone angle: <10°
  • Aspect ratio: >3
  • Tilt compensation: 15°
  • Tip post height: 3 μm
  • Tip shape: Conical
  • Tip material: Diamond-like carbon

Cantilever Specifications
nGauge AFM tips are located at the very end of the cantilever beam and are integrated onto a micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) chip. The chip features integrated lateral and vertical actuators and piezoresistive sensors.

  • Shape: Beam
  • Length: 30 μm
  • Width: 6 μm
  • Thickness: 3 μm
  • Resonant Frequency: 8 kHz (typical: 7.3–8.7 kHz)
  • Stiffness: 0.1 N/m

Application Examples

Sample: Shale (before and after ion milling processes)
Sample courtesy of Graham Spray, M.Sc., P.Geo., AGAT Laboratorie.

Sample: Patterned organic features on Si chip
Sample courtesy of Dr. Roksana Bavand, Avalon Holographics Inc.

Sample: Patterned Cr + Au / Ti on Si chip

Sample: Polymeric Membrane
Sample courtesy of Dr. Sadrzadeh, Mechanical Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering, University of Alberta.


The nGauge AFM is now available to users for both staff analysis and self-use/user training provided they purchase own nGauge AFM chip. Any users interested in getting trained on this tool or staff analysis should submit a request via LMACS. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Nas Yousefi or Peng Li – the Characterization Group Manager.