An active MEMS probe for fine position and force measurements

Bonjin Koo, Placid M. Ferreira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper deals with the development and calibration of a single degree-of-freedom probe that is capable of regulating an input position and measuring force or applying a constant input force and measuring deflection. Such a probe is useful in making sensitive measurements on thin films, nano- and microstructures, and fluids. The probe is actuated by an electrostatic comb drive with an integrated capacitive sensor. COTS electronics and a capacitance-to-voltage IC are used to develop a closed-loop controller for the system, capable of regulating position over a range of about 40 μm to within a 5 nm resolution and controlling forces up to 300 μN with a resolution of 25 nN. The design and fabrication of the probe are discussed. The calibration of the device is performed using multiple methods to cross check each other. The use of the probe is demonstrated in the measurement of surface tension and probing the response of a soft polymer to small forces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)738-748
Number of pages11
JournalPrecision Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2014


  • Calibration
  • Micro-electro-mechanical system
  • NanoNewton
  • Nanometer
  • Small force measurement
  • Surface-tension measurement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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