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    Questions for review

  • What makes the SEM such a useful instrument? What can it do that a normal optical microscope cannot?
  • Explain the usage of the electron beam in the SEM.
  • What is meant by “images of high resolution"?

Scanning tunneling microscopes

A Brief Historical Note

The scanning tunneling microscope (STM) had its birth in 1981, invented by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer of IBM, in Zurich, Germany. They won the 1986 Nobel Prize in physics for this accomplishment, but use of the microscope itself was somewhat slow to spread into the academic world. STM is used to scan surfaces at the atomic level, producing a map of electron densities; the surface science community was somewhat skeptical and resistant of such a pertinent tool coming from an outside, industrial source. There were questions as to the interpretations of the early images (how are we really sure those are the individual silicon atoms?), as well as the difficulty of interpreting them in the first place – the original STMs did not include computers to integrate the data. The older electron microscopes were generally easier to use, and more reliable; hence they retained preference over STMs for several years after the STM development. STM gained publicity slowly, through accomplishments such as IBM’s famous xenon atom arrangement feat (see fig. 3) in 1990, and the determination of the structure of “crystalline” silicon.

false-color STM image of xenon atoms arranged on a nickel background. From: D.M. Eigler, E.K. Schweizer. Positioning single atoms with a scanning tunneling microscope. Nature 344, 524-526 (1990).

How STMs Work: The Basic Ideas

  • I. the probe

    Scanning Tunneling Microscopy relies on a tiny probe of tungsten, platinum-iridium, or another conductive material to collect the data. The probe slowly “scans” across a surface, yielding an electron-density map of the nanoscale features of the surface. To achieve this resolution, the probe must be a wire with a protruding peak of a single atom; the sharper the peak, the better the resolution. A voltage difference between the tip and the sample results in an electron “tunneling” current when the tip comes close enough (within around 10 Å). This “tunneling” is a phenomenon explained by the quantum mechanical properties of particles; the current is either held constant and probe height recorded, or the probe’s height is maintained and the change in current is measured to produce the scanning data. In constant current microscopy, the probe height must be constantly adjusted, which makes for relatively slow scanning, but allows fairly irregular surfaces to be examined. By contrast, constant height mode allows for faster scanning, but will only be effective for relatively smooth sample surfaces.
  • Ii. piezoelectric scanner

    In order to make the sub-nanometer vertical adjustments required for STM, piezoelectric ceramics are used in the scanning platform on which the sample is held. Piezoelectric materials undergo infinitesimally small mechanical changes under an applied voltage; therefore in the positioning device of a STM, they provide the motion to change the tip height at small enough increments that collision with the sample surface can be avoided. A data feedback loop is maintained between probe and piezoelectric positioner, so that the tip’s height can be adjusted as necessary in constant-current mode, and can be brought close enough to the sample to begin scanning in the first place.
  • Iii. the computer

    Though the earliest STMs did not include a computer with the scanning apparatus, current models have one attached to filter and integrate the data as it is received, as well as to monitor and control the actual scanning process. Grayscale primary images can be colored to give contrast to different types of atoms in the sample; most published STM images have been enhanced in this way.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Nanotechnology: content and context. OpenStax CNX. May 09, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10418/1.1
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