Employing higher oscillation modes of microcantilevers promises higher sensitivity when applied as sensors, for example, for mass detection or in atomic force microscopy. Introducing a special cantilever geometry, we show that the relation between the resonance frequencies of the first and second resonance modes can be modified to separate them further or to bring them closer together. In atomic force microscopy the latter is of special interest as the photodiode of the beam deflection detection limits the accessible frequency range. Using finite element simulations, we optimized the design of the modified cantilever geometry for a maximum reduction of the frequency of the second oscillation mode with respect to the first mode. Cantilevers were fabricated by silicon micromachining and subsequently utilized in an ultrahigh vacuum Kelvin probe force microscope imaging the surface potential of C-60 on graphite. (c) 2006 American Institute of Physics.