NachhaltigElektrotechnik und MedientechnikMaschinenbau und Mechatronik
L. Larcher, F. Puglisi, L. Jiang, Jonas Weber, Günther Benstetter, P. Pavan, M. Lanza, Werner Frammelsberger
Understanding Current Instabilities in Conductive Atomic Force Microscopy
Materials, vol. 12, no. 3
Conductive atomic force microscopy (CAFM) is one of the most powerful techniques in studying the electrical properties of various materials at the nanoscale. However, understanding current fluctuations within one study (due to degradation of the probe tips) and from one study to another (due to the use of probe tips with different characteristics), are still two major problems that may drive CAFM researchers to extract wrong conclusions. In this manuscript, these two issues are statistically analyzed by collecting experimental CAFM data and processing them using two different computational models. Our study indicates that: (i) before their complete degradation, CAFM tips show a stable state with degraded conductance, which is difficult to detect and it requires CAFM tip conductivity characterization before and after the CAFM experiments; and (ii) CAFM tips with low spring constants may unavoidably lead to the presence of a ~1.2 nm thick water film at the tip/sample junction, even if the maximum contact force allowed by the setup is applied. These two phenomena can easily drive CAFM users to overestimate the properties of the samples under test (e.g., oxide thickness). Our study can help researchers to better understand the current shifts that were observed during their CAFM experiments, as well as which probe tip to use and how it degrades. Ultimately, this work may contribute to enhancing the reliability of CAFM investigations.
NachhaltigElektrotechnik und Medientechnik
X. Jing, E. Grustan-Gutierrez, M. Buckwell, Y. Ji, A. Kenyon, M. Rommel, Y. Shi, A. Mehonic, L. Jiang, A. Paskaleva, F. Hui, Günther Benstetter, S. Chen, W. Ng, M. Lanza
On the Limits of Scalpel AFM for the 3D Electrical Characterization of Nanomaterials
Advanced Functional Materials, vol. 28, no. 52
Conductive atomic force microscopy (CAFM) has been widely used for electrical characterization of thin dielectrics by applying a gentle contact force that ensures a good electrical contact without inducing additional high‐pressure related phenomena (e.g., flexoelectricity, local heat, scratching). Recently, the CAFM has been used to obtain 3D electrical images of thin dielectrics by etching their surface. However, the effect of the high contact forces/pressures applied during the etching on the electrical properties of the materials has never been considered. By collecting cross‐sectional transmission electron microscopy images at the etched regions, it is shown here that the etching process can modify the morphology of Al2O3 thin films (producing phase change, generation of defects, and metal penetration). It is also observed that this technique severely modifies the electrical properties of pSi and TiO2 wafers during the etching, and several behaviors ignored in previous studies, including i) observation of high currents in the absence of bias, ii) instabilities of etching rate, and iii) degradation of CAFM tips, are reported. Overall, this work should contribute to understand better the limitations of this technique and disseminate it among those applications in which it can be really useful.