This work compares the results of a structural controls based formulation of a micro-cantilever driven by thermal excitation to measured data and weighs the impact of various factors that can affect cantilever measurement. Understanding of the dynamics of small cantilevers such as those used in atomic force microscopy (AFM) is important for many of its applications, especially those that involve observing a cantilever’s thermally driven vibrations. This work considers factors such as the fluctuation dissipation theorem, which places thermodynamic constraints on the spectrum of the thermal driving force, errors associated with photodiode calibration, and cantilever coatings. The structural controls model, which accounts for hydrodynamic loading as a feedback process, is presented and compared to experimental data. Additionally, a discussion of the model’s use for estimating (calibrating) the cantilever stiffness is given.

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