Fabrication of ultra-sharp tips from carbon fiber for scanning tunneling microscopy investigations of epitaxial graphene on 6H-SiC(0001) surface

Abstract : The fabrication of ultra-sharp tips from carbon fiber (CF), which are mounted on a qPlus probe for combined dynamic scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and frequency modulation atomic force microscopy (FM-AFM) experiments, is reported. The carbon fiber tips were electrochemically etched in a KOH or NaOH solution, using different electronic devices. CF tips with an apex radius ~10 nm, as deduced from the measured slopes of the Fowler–Nordheim plots (kR < 70 nm for k ~ 6), were routinely obtained with a home-made electronic device that controls the intensity of the etching current. Then, these conductive CF tips were also characterized by imaging the 6H-SiC(0001) surface covered by an epitaxial graphene layer in ultra-high vacuum (UHV). The lattice of the (6R3x6R3)R30° reconstruction was regularly imaged by STM working either in non-oscillating mode or in dynamic mode, which also maps the variations of the force gradient. From these measurements with a constant mean-tunneling-current of 20 pA, it was found that the STM tip suffered variations of the tip/surface force gradient in between 8.25 and 16.50 N/m when it scanned the epitaxial graphene layer on the reconstructed 6H-SiC(0001) surface.
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José A. Morán-Meza, Christophe Lubin, François Thoyer, Kevin A. Villegas-Rosales, Abel A. Gutarra-Espinoza, et al.. Fabrication of ultra-sharp tips from carbon fiber for scanning tunneling microscopy investigations of epitaxial graphene on 6H-SiC(0001) surface. Carbon, Elsevier, 2015, 86, pp.363-370. ⟨10.1016/j.carbon.2015.01.050⟩. ⟨cea-01273486⟩

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