Current-Limited Conductive Atomic Force Microscopy

Jonas Weber, Yue Yuan, Sebastian Pazos, Fabian Kühnel, Christoph Metzke, Josef Schätz, Werner Frammelsberger, Günther Benstetter, Mario Lanza*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Conductive atomic force microscopy (CAFM) has become the preferred tool of many companies and academics to analyze the electronic properties of materials and devices at the nanoscale. This technique scans the surface of a sample using an ultrasharp conductive nanoprobe so that the contact area between them is very small (<100 nm2) and it can measure the properties of the sample with a very high lateral resolution. However, measuring relatively low currents (∼1 nA) in such small areas produces high current densities (∼1000 A/cm2), which almost always results in fast nanoprobe degradation. That is not only expensive but also endangers the reliability of the data collected because detecting which data sets are affected by tip degradation can be complex. Here, we show an inexpensive long-sought solution for this problem by using a current limitation system. We test its performance by measuring the tunneling current across a reference ultrathin dielectric when applying ramped voltage stresses at hundreds of randomly selected locations of its surface, and we conclude that the use of a current limitation system increases the lifetime of the tips by a factor of ∼50. Our work contributes to significantly enhance the reliability of one of the most important characterization techniques in the field of nanoelectronics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56365-56374
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 6 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Chemical Society.


  • conductive atomic force microscopy
  • current limitation
  • degradation
  • nanoprobe
  • reliability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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