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Troubleshoot: Reducing the physical noise background for AFM measurements

If you are not satisfied with the mechanical/acoustic noise during your AFM experiments, here are a few points you likely can improve:

Check all ventilation:

Turn off or reduce the incubation ventilation

If you work with living cells it is likely that you have an incubator box with ventilation around your setup. Reducing the ventilation intensity can have a big effect on the Noise during your measurements.

Remove all objects with fans from the microscope table

The fan of a power supply can introduce significant mechanical vibrations to the setup. Even if it only touches the table with a cable. This includes:

  • The computer
  • Any measurement- or control electronics with fan
  • The microscope camera (if cooled by fan)

For the microscope camera it is sometimes possible to disable the cooling temporarily. Switching to water-cooling can also reduce vibrations, but will not eliminate it completely.

Dampen the lab ventilation

Ventilation in the lab can generate audible acoustic noise which disturbs your measurement. Turning it off in vicinity to the AFM or installing an acoustic shield can help a lot.

Ground the automated microscope stage

The XY microscope stage has an optional ground pin in the back of the controller box

 

Connecting this pin with a banana cable improves the stability of the XY stage position and thus reduces noise during your measurement.

Active damping of the table:

While passive damping is common for microscopy tables, active damping can significantly reduce mechanical noise transported via the ground to your setup. It will not cancel acoustic noise which is transported via air.

An economic approach is to add a benchtop active-damping solution.

Improve passive damping of your table:

If an active damping solution is not an option for your lab. There are a few tricks how you can improve the passive damping of your table:

  • Use a robust, massive table.
  • Use one with integrated passive damping. Either an optical table (with pneumatics) or preferably a dedicated microscopy table.
  • Place the table close to a load-bearing wall, if possible in the corner. This will reduce mechanical noise pickup from people walking around.
  • Add weights to the table, the more the better.
  • Economic benchtop solution: Place a thick stone plate on cork pads and use it as base for your microscope. 

Use short AFM scan head cable 

If you have multiple scan head cables for your setup, choose the shorter one for an improved S/N ratio. Contact us on support@fluidfm.com if you would like to order a shorter cable.

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