We present a microelectromechanical device-based tool, namely, a force-clamp system that sets or “clamps” the scaled force and can apply designed loading profiles (e.g., constant, sinusoidal) of a desired magnitude. The system implements a piezoresistive cantilever as a force sensor and the built-in capacitive sensor of a piezoelectric actuator as a displacement sensor, such that sample indentation depth can be directly calculated from the force and displacement signals. A programmable real-time controller operating at 100 kHz feedback calculates the driving voltage of the actuator. The system has two distinct modes: a force-clamp mode that controls the force applied to a sample and a displacement-clamp mode that controls the moving distance of the actuator. We demonstrate that the system has a large dynamic range (sub-nN up to tens of μN force and nm up to tens of μm displacement) in both air and water, and excellent dynamic response (fast response time, <2 ms and large bandwidth, 1 Hz up to 1 kHz). In addition, the system has been specifically designed to be integrated with other instruments such as a microscope with patch-clamp electronics. We demonstrate the capabilities of the system by using it to calibrate the stiffness and sensitivity of an electrostatic actuator and to measure the mechanics of a living, freely moving Caenorhabditis elegans nematode
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