Calibration of atomic force microscope (AFM) cantilevers is necessary for the measurement of nano-newton and pico-newton forces, which are critical to analytical application of AFM in the analysis of polymer surfaces, biological structures and organic molecules. Previously we have described microfabricated array of reference spring (MARS) devices for AFM cantilever spring-constant calibration. Hitherto, these have been limited to the calibration of AFM cantilevers above 0.03 N/m, although they can be used to calibrate cantilevers of lower stiffness with reduced accuracy. Below this limit MARS devices similar to the designs hitherto described would be fragile and difficult to manufacture with reasonable yield. In this work we describe a device we call torsional MARS. This is a large-area torsional mechanical resonator, manufactured by bulk micromachining of a “silicon-on-insulator” wafer. By measuring its torsional oscillation accurately in vacuum we can deduce its torsional spring constant. The torsional reference spring spans the range of spring constant (from 4 down to 0.01 N/m) that is important in biological AFM, allowing even the most compliant AFM cantilever to be calibrated easily and rapidly.

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