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A major challenge in high-speed Atomic Force Microscopy is the low vertical bandwidth of the Z-scanner feedback loop. The maximum vertical feedback bandwidth is limited by the first Z-axis resonance frequency of the scanner. In this article, the design of a fast Z-scanner for high-speed Atomic Force Microscopy is presented. The Z-scanner consists of a piezoelectric stack actuator and a diaphragm flexure. The flexure provides the necessary preload to the actuator to prevent it from getting damaged during high-speed scans. A finite-element-analysis based optimization method is used to achieve a high resonance frequency of about 60 kHz. A counterbalance is added to the Z-scanner to minimize the inertial effect which tends to cause vibrations in the lateral axes of the device. This mechanical design enabled us to achieve a closed-loop vertical control bandwidth of 6.5 kHz. This is significantly higher than the closed loop bandwidth of the commercial AFM in which this stage was tested. AFM images of a test grating with sharp corners were recorded at a resolution of 200 x 200 pixels at 10 Hz, 100 Hz and 200 Hz line rates without noticeable image artifacts due to insufficient vertical bandwidth and vibrations.
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