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Scanning Tunneling

Microscopy
By Lucas Carlson
Reed College
March 2004

ImagefromanSTM

Iron atoms on the surface of Cu(111)

TheScanningTunnelingMicroscope(STM)

TheSTMisanelectronmicroscopethat
usesasingleatomtiptoattainatomicresolution.

History
The scanning tunneling microscope was
developed at IBM Zrich in 1981 by Gerd
Binning and Heinrich Rohrer who shared the
Nobel Prize for physics in 1986 because of
the microscope.

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Gerd Binning

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Heinrich
Rohrer

General Overview
An extremely fine conducting probe is held
about an atoms diameter from the sample.
Electrons tunnel between the surface and the tip,
producing an electrical signal.
While it slowly scans across the surface,
the tip is raised and lowered in order to keep
the signal constant and maintain the distance.
This enables it to follow even the smallest
details of the surface it is scanning.

The Tip
150xMagnification
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As we will see later, is very important that the


tip of the probe be a single atom.
Tungsten is commonly used because you can use
Electro-chemical etching techniques to create
very sharp tips like the one above.

Quantum Tunneling
Classical
WaveFunction
ForFiniteSquare
WellPotential
WhereE<V
Classically, when an object hits a potential that
it doesnt have enough energy to pass, it will
never go though that potential wall, it always
bounces back.
In English, if you throw a ball at a wall, it will
bounce back
at you.

Quantum Tunneling
Quantum
WaveFunction
ForFiniteSquare
WellPotential
WhereE<V
In quantum mechanics when a particle hits a
potential that it doesnt have enough energy
to pass, when inside the square well, the wave
function dies off exponentially.
If the well is short enough, there will be a noticeable
probability of finding the particle on the other side.

Quantum Tunneling
The finite square well potential is a good
approximation for looking at electrons on conducting
slabs with a gap between them.

Quantum Tunneling
Moregraphsoftunneling:
n(r)isthe
probabilityof
findinganelectron
V(r)isthepotential
Anelectrontunnelingfromatomtoatom:

Quantum Tunneling
Nowlookingmoreindepthatthecaseoftunneling
fromonemetaltoanother.EFrepresentstheFermi
energy.Creatingavoltagedropbetweenthetwo
metalsallowscurrent.
Sample

Tip

Quantum Tunneling
Throughabarrier,quantummechanicspredictsthatthe
wavefunctiondiesoffexponentially:

Sotheprobabilityoffindinganelectronafterabarrierof
widthdis:

And:

Wheref(V)istheFermifunction,whichcontainsaweighted
jointlocaldensityofstates.Thisamaterialpropertyobtained

bymeasurements.

Quantum Tunneling

Where:

Plugging in typical values for m, d, and phi (where


phi is the average work function of the tip and the
sample), when d changes by 1 , the current
changes by a factor of about 10!

Quantum Tunneling
So if you bring the tip close enough to the surface,
you can create a tunneling current,
even though there is a break in the circuit.
The size of the gap in practice is on the order
of a couple of Angstroms (10-10 m)!
As you can see, the current is VERY sensitive to the
gap distance.

Quantum Tunneling

The second tip shown above is recessed by


about two atoms and thus carries about a
million times less current. That is why we
want such a fine tip. If we can get a single
atom at the tip, the vast majority of the
current will run through it and thus give us

atomic resolution.

Note
A STM does not measure nuclear position
directly. Rather it measures the electron
density clouds on the surface of the sample.
In some cases, the electron clouds represent
the atom locations pretty well, but not
always.

Small Movements
To get the distance between the tip and the
sample down to a couple of Angstroms
where the tunneling current is at a measurable
level, STMs use feedback servo loops and converse
piezoelectricity.

Servos
Servos are small devices
with a shaft that can be
precisely controlled with
electrical signals.
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Servos are used all the


time in radio controlled
cars, puppets, and
robots.

Converse Piezoelectricity
Piezoelectricityistheabilityofcertaincrystalsto
produceavoltagewhensubjectedtomechanical
stress.
Whenyouapplyanelectricfieldtoa
piezoelectriccrystal,thecrystaldistorts.Thisis
knownasconversepiezoelectricity.The
distortionsofapiezoisusuallyontheorderof
micrometers,whichisinthescaleneededtokeep
thetipoftheSTMacoupleAngstromsfromthe
surface.
ElectricField
Pizos
Thetip

Problems and Solutions


Bringingthetipclosetothesurfaceandscanningthesurface
FeedbackServoLoops
Keepingthetipclosetothesurface
ConversePiezoelectricity
Creatingaveryfinetip
Electrochemicaletching
Forcesbetweentipandsample
Negligibleinmostcases
Mechanicalvibrationsandacousticnoise
Softsuspensionofthemicroscopewithinanultrahigh
vacuumchamber(10-11 Torr)
Thermallengthfluctuationsofthesampleandespeciallythetip
Verylowtemperatures
Thesamplehastobeabletoconductelectricity

Thereisnowayaroundthis,tryusinganAFM

Vibration-Isolation

TheoriginalSTMdesignhadthetunnelunitwith
permanentmagnetslevitatedonasuperconductinglead
bowl.Theyused20Lofliquidheliumperhour.

Vibration-Isolation

Thesimpleandpresentlywidelyusedvibrationprotection
withastackofmetalplatesseparatedbyvitonanultra
highvacuumcompatiblerubberspacer.

Original Trace

Si(111)tracetakenin1983.

Processed Trace

Computerprocessedversion
ofthesametraceofSi(111)

How to Process a Trace


Thetrace(1)canbeinterpretedasagridwhichcanbe
shownasagrayscalepicture(2).
2

Thegrayscalepicturecanbeinterpretedasacontour
map(3)whichcanthenbeaveragedouttomake
smooth(4)andfinallycolored(below).

Uses of STM
Measuringhighprecisionopticalcomponentsanddisk
drivesurfaceroughnessofmachinedorgroundsurfaces
isacommonuseforSTM.
Belowisatraceofanindividualturnmarkona
diamondturnedaluminumsubstratetobeusedfor
subsequentmagneticfilmdepositionforahigh
capacityharddiscdrive.

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1micron

Uses of STM
Bymeasuringvariationsincurrent,voltage,tip/surface
separation,andtheirderivatives,theelectronicpropertiesof
differentmaterialscanbestudied.
Onesuchelementstudiedwasthebuckyball(C60).When
youpressdownonabuckyballby1/10thnm,itlowersthe
resistanceofthebuckyballby100times.

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C.JoachimJ.K.Gimzewski,
"Anelectromechanicalamplifier
usingasinglemolecule,
ChemicalPhysicsLetters,Vol.
265,Nos.35,page353,
February7,1997.

Different STM Ideas


Youcoulddecidenottousepiezoelectricitytokeepthe
distancebetweenthetipandthesurfaceequalatalltimes,
andinsteadusethecurrentmeasurementstodeterminethe
surfaceofasample.
Pros:
Youcanscanmuchfaster
Cons:
Thesurfacemustnothave
cavitiesmorethanafew
Angstromsdeep(anatomortwo)
becauseoftunneling

Different STM Ideas


Imagineincreasingthetunnelingcurrentwhenyouareon
topofanatombyloweringthetipalittle.Theattractive
forcebetweenthetipandtheatomwouldthenincrease,
allowingyoutodragatomsaround.
IBMimaginedthis.Ironatomswerefirstphysisorbed
(stucktogetherusingintermolecularforces,akaVanDer
Waalsfoces)onaCusurface.Theironatomsshowupas
bumpsbelow.

Different STM Ideas


Theironatomswerethendraggedalongthesurfaceof
toformacircle.

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DifferentSTMIdeas

Iron atoms on the surface of Cu(111)

Different STM Ideas

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References
Carbon
Monoxide
Man

G.BinnigandH.Rohrer."ScanningTunnelingMicroscopy",
IBMJRes.Develop.,30:355,1986.
G.Binnig,H.Rohrer,ScanningTunnelingMicroscopy
FromBirthtoAdolescence,Nobellecture,December8,
1986.
TitWahHui,ScanningTunnelingMicroscopyATutorial,
http://www.chembio.uoguelph.ca/educmat/chm729/STMpage/
stmtutor.htm

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Wikipedia,ScanningTunnelingMicroscope,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scanning_tunneling_microscope
Carbon Monoxide on Platinum (111)NobeleMuseum,TheScanningTunnelingMicroscope,

http://www.nobel.se/physics/educational/microscopes/scannin
g/index.html

Picturesfromhttp://www.almaden.ibm.com/vis/stm/blue.html