The nonlinear vibration response of an atomic force microscope cantilever in contact with a vibrating sample is investigated. The tip-sample contact is modeled using Hertzian contact mechanics. The method of multiple scales is used to analyze this problem in which it is assumed that the beam remains in contact with the moving surface at all times. The primary result from this analysis is the amplitude-frequency relation for the various flexural modes. The amplitude-frequency curves exhibit softening behavior as expected. The amount of softening is shown to depend on the linear contact stiffness as well as the specific mode. The modal sensitivity to nonlinearity is the result of the nonlinearity being restricted to a single position. The mode shape greatly affects the degree to which the nonlinearity influences the frequency response. The Hertzian restriction is then loosened slightly such that variations in nonlinear contact stiffness are examined. These results depend on the linear contact stiffness and mode number as well. The nonlinear vibration response is expected to provide new insight on the nonlinear tip mechanics present in these systems.

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