We Can Figure This Out.org
Virtual Lab: Scanning Probe Microscopes
University of Virginia
© 2003-Present, John C. Bean
The heart of the instrument is the "SPM Head" which is built around a small cantilever beam. At the end of this beam is a minute needle-like tip. The point of the tip can be as small as a few atoms across. It is this tip that will ride across (or just above) the sample being measured "feeling" the shape of its surface.

These cantilever / tip assemblies come in many different styles. Further, because they wear out quickly, they are not built into the SPM. Instead, they are clipped into a removable holder so that they can be replaced or different style tips can be easily swapped in and out of the SPM.

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