Aurora NanoDevices Inc.,
PO Box 37013
38-3200 Island Hwy
Nanaimo, BC
Canada V9T 6N4

250 739-2161 (Voice)
780 665-6084 (Fax)
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Frequently Asked Questions

Our technical support department often gets similar questions from customers regarding either the characteristics or potential applications of our Nioprobe and Tipcheck products.  We have decided to place the most commonly asked questions on our website and will update this page as the need arises.  Certainly, this is not an final response from us and you should feel free to contact us directly if the information given does not sufficiently answer your question or your question is not present.  Thank you for your interest.

Q1    Can you provide more details on the Tipcheck and give its price.

Details on the Tipcheck may be found on its product specification sheet.  The device consists of randomly oriented sharp peaks on a size scale of a few tens of nanometers.  The depth of these peaks is on the order of a few hundred nanometers, making these devices more suitable for imaging the AFM tip shaft or determining whether the tip is broken (the Nioprobe device, in contrast, can be used to analyze the tip apex). 

If you scan the surface of the Tipcheck sample with your AFM, reverse imaging can be used to determine the status of your tip.  We provide some simple formulas in the package to do this, though you can also use a more in-depth analysis via a software package like Image Metrology's SPIP product

Current pricing may be obtained on the ordering page of this site. 

Q2    What are the practical differences between the Tipcheck and Nioprobe device?

Both the Tipcheck and Nioprobe sample are intended for tip shape imaging.  However, the practical difference between the two lie in what portion of the tip is imaged.  The Nioprobe device consists of smaller peaks (~5nm) and shallower trenches (no more than 50-100nm) compared to the Tipcheck device which generally exhibits maximum relief of 100 to 140nm.  Hence, the Nioprobe is most suitable for imaging the very apex of the tip (i.e. if you are interested in scanning low relief structures like DNA), while the Tipcheck is useful when studying high relief structures such as lithographic features or determining whether the tip is broken.

Q3    Can the Nioprobe calibrate to a point greater than 10nm from the apex? 

Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that the Nioprobe will calibrate the tip at a point greater than 10nm from the apex.  Typically, this device is sufficient for calibration within the range of the first 5 to 10nm from the apex.  This means that as an extreme example, one device may work to 5nm, while another may work to 10nm.  The Tipcheck is suitable for calibration around 50-100nm from the apex.  Currently we are researching extending the range of both these devices so that the grey area between the two is covered more precisely.

Q4    Can both contact and non-contact mode AFM be used with either the Tipcheck and Nioprobe devices?

Yes, the devices can be used with both these modes of operation.   It should be noted that contact mode will wear the tip more rapidly.

Q5    Can the Tipcheck and Nioprobe devices be cleaned?

This question has arisen on several occasions, and we are currently investigating a consistent cleaning method.  We anticipate that most chemicals and solvents will leave residues on the surface (due to their small features) which may subsequently find their way on the tip themselves.  Outside of N2 blowing across the device surface, we recommend that the safest course of action is its replacement.

Q6    I live in the United States and would like to purchase a Tipcheck and Nioprobe but want to avoid customs paperwork (and so expedite my order).  Do you have a US subsidiary? 

We do not have a US subsidiary, but have several US distributors for our products (see our order page).  That being said, we have not found shipping delays to be significant for our US customers (often they will receive the product within a week of ordering, usually in a few days). 

We also note that we have several international distributors (in Asia and Europe). Their websites may also be found on the order page.

Q7    Can the Tipcheck be used to determine the tip radius of a Nanoindenter (i.e. not an AFM tip). 

Recently, a number of people have inquired about the use of Tipcheck in recovering the geometry of nanoinentation probes.  This is something we have been meaning to try but have not yet had the opportunity. 

However, we must express some reservations about using the TipCheck with nanoindentation probes for the following reason:

Although the relief on the Tipcheck devices can vary a bit, it is generally 100 to 140nm of peak to peak depth.  In principle, we could use this sample to recover the same amount of depth on the probe which would be sufficient for most indentation work.  Because the Tipcheck is designed to be used for much smaller probes than indentation probes, the feature separation on the surface is typically much less than one micron.  We anticipate that a probe with a diameter of a micron or larger will not penetrate the full 100nm of relief on the device surface, thereby limiting the amount of probe surface that can be sampled.

Q8    Can the Tipcheck be used to determine the tip radii for fluid tapping mode probes?  In other words, does the Tipcheck operate effectively within fluids?

This question has been raised occasionally, and we are currently investigating the effectiveness of the Tipcheck in fluids.  Recent results from our customers indicates that the Tipcheck does appear to be effective for measuring fluid tapping mode probes when immersed in (purified, high-resistivity) water.  Further testing is obviously still required, but these results are promising for those who may wish to use the Tipcheck for this purpose.

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