The tapping mode (TM) is a popularly used imaging mode in atomic force microscopy (AFM). A feedback loop regulates the amplitude of the tapping cantilever by adjusting the offset between the probe and sample; the image is generated from the control action. This paper explores the role of the trajectory of the tapping cantilever in the accuracy of the acquired image. This paper demonstrates that reshaping the cantilever trajectory alters the amplitude response to changes in surface topography, effectively altering the mechanical sensitivity of the instrument. Trajectory dynamics are analyzed to determine the effect on mechanical sensitivity and analysis of the feedback loop is used to determine the effect on image accuracy. Experimental results validate the analysis, demonstrating better than 30% improvement in mechanical sensitivity using certain trajectories. Images obtained using these trajectories exhibit improved sharpness and surface tracking, especially at high scan speeds.

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