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In Situ Sharpening of Atomic Force Microscope Tips

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000115002D
Original Publication Date: 1995-Feb-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Mar-30
Document File: 2 page(s) / 31K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Related People

Binnig, GK: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

During the operation of an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), the tip of the AFM might break (Figure-A). As under normal imaging conditions in air a thin film of condensed water is always present on the surface of a sample, an electro-chemical process can be applied to rebuild a sharp tip in situ. By moving the tip to an area in which the sample is conducting, an electro-chemical current occurs between tip and substrate. Material from the substrate is deposited onto the tip as shown in Figure-B. The tip is sharpened (Figure-C) as the ionic current and hence the deposition of material is highest at the apex of the tip by virtue of the electric field which is concentrated at this point. The whole process may be performed during imaging and can be stopped as soon as the imaged structures regain their normal or desired appearance.

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In Situ Sharpening of Atomic Force Microscope Tips

      During the operation of an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), the
tip of the AFM might break (Figure-A).  As under normal imaging
conditions in air a thin film of condensed water is always present on
the surface of a sample, an electro-chemical process can be applied
to rebuild a sharp tip in situ.  By moving the tip to an area in
which the sample is conducting, an electro-chemical current occurs
between tip and substrate.  Material from the substrate is deposited
onto the tip as shown in Figure-B.  The tip is sharpened (Figure-C)
as the ionic current and hence the deposition of material is highest
at the apex of the tip by virtue of the electric field which is
concentrated at this point.  The whole process may be performed
during imaging and can be stopped as soon as the imaged structures
regain their normal or desired appearance.

      The procedure was tested with doped silicon tips and gold
substrates.  The voltage applied during the electro-chemical
deposition was -15 V.