TT-AFM noise floor measurement

1. Place a clean silicon calibration sample on the scanner.
2. Place a new probe in the instrument.
3. For this comparison, use vibrating mode. Setup the optical  alignment and Tune frequency as normal.
4. Select parameters to test are listed below. note that for a fair comparison, you can use parameters relevant to your typical measurements. The parameters described here, will give you an “ideal” value, i.e the best result possible.


Suggested parameters 


Suggested value

X Gain %


Y Gain %


XY HV Gain

Initially 1 (note it should be 0 for the actual measurement)

Z HV Gain


Image Add


Z Feedback values

Values you typically  use, for example Gain 1.5, Proportional 150, Integral 1500




1 Hz

Left Image





Note that you can use any different parameters you like for this, and they can and will alter the results that you get. Also, the instrument should be properly calibrated in z to allow comparison with any other values. Be aware that tip approach with Z HV gain at 1 will be very slow, and some post-approach adjustments might be necessary.(i.e Jog Down).


5. Go into feedback, and scan an image of a small area of the surface (XY HV Gain of 1). The image should be clean, with very few features visible. Ensure you end the scan with the probe on a flat part of the sample.

6. Withdraw probe.

7. Set scan size to 0, by using XY HV Gain = 0.

8. Approach surface again.


NOTE: It is important that you go into feedback on the surface in the same way as you did when you scanned an image. If you go into false feedback (probe almost but not quite, on the surface), you will not make a valid noise floor measurement.

9. Scan another image. No sample features should appear, as scan size is zero. The image may look something like the image below, or have some regular patterns in it.

0. Save the file, and open the Left image -  z piezo drive file (height image) in gwyddion.
11. Apply a 1st order polynomial levelling (fit linear).
12. Use “Statistical Quantities” and record the RMS average roughness (Sq). This is the noise floor

You should get a value of <1 Angstrom (gwyddion may report this as <100 pm).

If you do not get a satisfactory value, try removing sources of external vibration (other machinery, acoustic noise, unnecessary cables) from the instrument. Ensure probe and sample are grounded. Ensure vibration isolation system is being used properly.

Typical values found in a TT-AFM in an acoustically shielding box, with bungee-cord type isolation, in vibrating mode would be 0.3 to 0.5 Angstrom.

You should be able to achieve at least the value specified by AFM workshop on the instrument spec. sheet which was delivered with your instrument.

All materials on this website are copyright 2010-2014 Peter Eaton.