Two-dimensional cantilever array with varying spring constants and tip radii for life-science applications
A fabrication process for realising two-dimensional cantilever arrays for parallel force spectroscopy of biological samples is presented. The parallel optical atomic force microscopy readout system has been developed and presented elsewhere. The arrays are designed either for (i) force-indentation onto living cells to obtain stiffness mapping or (ii) cell adhesion experiments. Both experiments require very different spring constants and tip radii of curvature. The arrays are based on silicon nitride cantilevers with molded tips. The fabrication process includes an advanced molding process and a thermocompression bonding of two silicon wafers. V-groove structures along the cantilevers, which increase the area moment of inertia, were introduced in the cantilever design. This feature enables the fabrication of cantilevers with different spring constants but same footprint from one wafer. An analytical model and experimental results confirmed that the spring constant of the cantilever (200 x 50 x 0.45 mu m) could be increased up to two decades (0.03-5 N/m) by changing the depth of the V-grooves. To realise the large tip radius required for cell adhesion experiments, an enlarging/rounding procedure has been applied to a truncated pyramidal tip mold. With this process, the authors obtained tips with a radius up to 4 mu m.