ESD Warning: probes are Electro Sensitive

What is the problem: buildup of potentials due to lack of charge equilibrium

“A static electric charge can be created whenever two surfaces contact and or slide against each other and then separate. The effects of static electricity are familiar to most people because they can feel, hear, and even see sparks if the excess charge is neutralized when brought close to an electrical conductor (for example, a path to ground), or a region with an excess charge of the opposite polarity (positive or negative). The familiar phenomenon of a static shock – more specifically, an electrostatic discharge – is caused by the neutralization of the charges”

AFM probes with small tips are very sensitive to electrostatic discharges because the apex will cause a much higher electric field as compared to a flat surface. This high electric field can result in discharges where the apex is broken. As a consequence, your imaging resolution will be much lower than expected.

How to work properly for preserving your probes in your Atomic Force Microscope room

1. Use laboratory antistatic chairs. Office chairs are not recommended, your clothes + your motion creates by triboelectric effect a lot of charges on you, a major cause of ESD failures with tips

2. Make the atmosphere more conductive: increase the relative humidity if your room air is dry: open the window, and/or use an air ionizer to crate charges that will prevent the buildup of high potentials in your tables, chairs, AFM setup

3. On the table you want to use for tip mounting in your AFM head holder, use and antistatic carpet with banana connector draining the charges to an electrical ground. Professionals also use a floor antistatic carpet.

4. Attach an antistatic bracelet to your wrist to drain the charges to an electrical ground

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