Characterization of the photocurrents generated by the laser of atomic force microscopes

Yanfeng Ji, Fei Hui, Yuanyuan Shi, Vanessa Iglesias, David Lewis, Jiebin Niu, Shibing Long, Ming Liu, Alexander Hofer, Werner Frammelsberger, Guenther Benstetter, Andrew Scheuermann, Paul C. McIntyre, Mario Lanza

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3 Scopus citations


The conductive atomic force microscope (CAFM) has become an essential tool for the nanoscale electronic characterization of many materials and devices. When studying photoactive samples, the laser used by the CAFM to detect the deflection of the cantilever can generate photocurrents that perturb the current signals collected, leading to unreliable characterization. In metal-coated semiconductor samples, this problem is further aggravated, and large currents above the nanometer range can be observed even without the application of any bias. Here we present the first characterization of the photocurrents introduced by the laser of the CAFM, and we quantify the amount of light arriving to the surface of the sample. The mechanisms for current collection when placing the CAFM tip on metal-coated photoactive samples are also analyzed in-depth. Finally, we successfully avoided the laser-induced perturbations using a two pass technique: the first scan collects the topography (laser ON) and the second collects the current (laser OFF). We also demonstrate that CAFMs without a laser (using a tuning fork for detecting the deflection of the tip) do not have this problem.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalReview of Scientific Instruments
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

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