Aligning a microcantilever to an area of interest on a sample is a critical step in many scanning probe microscopy experiments, particularly those carried out on devices and rare, precious samples. We report a series of protocols that rapidly and reproducibly align a high-compliance microcantilever to a <10 μm sample feature under high vacuum and at cryogenic temperatures. The first set of protocols, applicable to a cantilever oscillating parallel to the sample surface, involve monitoring the cantilever resonance frequency while laterally scanning the tip to map the sample substrate through electrostatic interactions of the substrate with the cantilever. We demonstrate that when operating a cantilever a few micrometers from the sample surface, large shifts in the cantilever resonance frequency are present near the edges of a voltage-biased sample electrode. Surprisingly, these "edge-finder" frequency shifts are retained when the electrode is coated with a polymer film and a ∼10 nm thick metallic ground plane. The second series of methods, applicable to any scanning probe microscopy experiment, integrate a single-optical fiber to image line scans of the sample surface. The microscope modifications required for these methods are straightforward to implement, provide reliable micrometer-scale positioning, and decrease the experimental setup time from days to hours in a vacuum, cryogenic magnetic resonance force microscope.
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