SXSPM Research | Highlights

Advances in making STM tips smarter

The combination of scanning tunneling microscopy with synchrotron x-rays has the potential to enable the study of novel materials at nanometer length scale with electronic, chemical, and magnetic contrast. While the scanning probe provides the high spatial resolution, photoabsorption of x-rays yields chemical and magnetic contrast. However, in order to take full advantage of the method’s potential novel insulator-coated tips with ultra-small conducting apex have to be developed. An insulating layer smartly minimizes the background signal otherwise detected by the sidewall of the tip. We have used X-ray nanotomography technology available at the Hard X-ray Nanoprobe to obtain for the first time an important three-dimensional view of insulator-coated smart tips. The study of the buried interface between the PtIr tip and the insulating film facilitates the understanding of the structural and transport properties of insulating coatings. The ability to see the internal structure of these coatings with x-ray nanotomography has helped to better understand the coating process, which in turn will guarantee exceptionally performing tips.

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