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Pulsed Force Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy

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journal contribution
posted on 16.04.2020, 18:40 authored by Devon S. Jakob, Haomin Wang, Xiaoji G. Xu
Measurement of the contact potential difference (CPD) and work functions of materials are important in analyzing their electronic structures and surface residual charges. Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM), an imaging technique of atomic force microscopy, has been widely used for surface potential and work function mapping at the nanoscale. However, the conventional KPFM variants are often limited in their spatial resolution to 30–100 nm under ambient conditions. The continuingly decreasing size and increasing complexity of photoactive materials and semiconductor devices will present future challenges in uncovering their nanometer-scale electrical properties through KPFM. Here, we introduce a KPFM technique based on the pulsed force mode of atomic force microscopy. Our technique, named pulsed force Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy (PF-KPFM), is a single-pass technique that utilizes the intrinsic Fermi level alignment between the AFM tip and the conductive sample without the need for an external oscillating voltage. Induced cantilever oscillations generated by a spontaneous redistribution of electrons between tip and sample are extracted and used to obtain the cantilever oscillation amplitude and to derive the surface potential. The spatial resolution of PF-KPFM is shown to be <10 nm under ambient conditions. The high spatial resolution surface potential mapping enables in situ determination of ohmic and nonohmic contacts between metals and semiconductors, mapping boundaries of ferroelectric domains of BaTiO3, as well as characterization of protein aggregates. High spatial resolution measurements with PF-KPFM will facilitate further studies directed at uncovering electrical properties for emerging photoactive materials, biological samples, and semiconductor devices.

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