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How to make an inexpensive Atomic Force Microscope? Answered

I am sorry for my very difficult question. I would like to make an inexpensive Atomic Force Microscope. Can you help me? Thanks.


Your project is possible and has been done by high school students.



If you follow the first link on this page there is a .pdf and . stl  file in the .zip.
In addition, you may be interested in joining the Open Manufacturing Google Group.


Good luck, and please post somewhere on your progress.

A Low Cost DIY Atomic Force Microscope/低價DIY原子力顯微鏡 by whoand


Yes, an AFM is versatile and can be used under vacuum or atmospheric conditions. Clearly the latter is preferable when studying complex biological systems, say. Instructions for building one "cheaply" can be found here. Here cheap means "less than hundreds of thousands of dollars".


Thank you very much for the useful link!!! I am really grateful to you. Best Regards, VPA


I am a professor at ASU and am very excited by your post and would like to know how your project and quest to look at DNA, RNA, and Proteins is going. Can you email me at winslow.burleson@asu.edu?



i don't think so...


9 years ago

I am looking at surfaces of biological samples or biomolecules as DNA, RNA or proteins so I just need a system without vacuum.

I guess the first question is, what do you mean by "inexpensive." Since it's been invented already, the idea behind an AFM is relatively simple. You would need

  • A very good vacuum system
  • A high-precision piezoelectric stage
  • A cantilever with single-atom-pointed tip at the end

The last item is the hard one. It needs to be made using standard chip-fabrication techniques, so that the tip actually comes to a point with just one atom at the end.

Because those fabrication technique have a high economy of scale (making one is horrendously expensive, making 10,000 is just expensive), it is almost certain that you can buy a working AFM for less than you can make one (unless you happen to have a chip foundry in your garage).

You are right but I think that Atomic Force Microscope don't need a vacuum system.

I suppose it depends on what you want to measure. If you want to do clean crystal planes, without having adsorbed gas interfering, then a vacuum system could be useful. If you're looking at surfaces where atmospheric adsorption is irrelevent, you're quite right.