New imaging modes for analyzing suspended ultra-thin membranes by double-tip scanning probe microscopy

Kenan Elibol, Stefan Hummel, Bernhard C. Bayer, Jannik C. Meyer

Scanning probe microscopy (SPM) techniques are amongst the most important and versatile experimental methods in surface- and nanoscience. Although their measurement principles on rigid surfaces are well understood and steady progress on the instrumentation has been made, SPM imaging on suspended, flexible membranes remains difficult to interpret. Due to the interaction between the SPM tip and the flexible membrane, morphological changes caused by the tip can lead to deformations of the membrane during scanning and hence significantly influence measurement results. On the other hand, gaining control over such modifications can allow to explore unknown physical properties and functionalities of such membranes. Here, we demonstrate new types of measurements that become possible with two SPM instruments (atomic force microscopy, AFM, and scanning tunneling microscopy, STM) that are situated on opposite sides of a suspended two-dimensional (2D) material membrane and thus allow to bring both SPM tips arbitrarily close to each other. One of the probes is held stationary on one point of the membrane, within the scan area of the other probe, while the other probe is scanned. This way new imaging modes can be obtained by recording a signal on the stationary probe as a function of the position of the other tip. The first example, which we term electrical cross-talk imaging (ECT), shows the possibility of performing electrical measurements across the membrane, potentially in combination with control over the forces applied to the membrane. Using ECT, we measure the deformation of the 2D membrane around the indentation from the AFM tip. In the second example, which we term mechanical cross-talk imaging (MCT), we disentangle the mechanical influence of a scanning probe tip (e.g. AFM) on a freestanding membrane by means of independently recording the response of the opposing tip. In this way we are able to separate the tip-induced membrane deformation topography from the (material-dependent) force between the tip and the membrane. Overall, the results indicate that probing simultaneously both surfaces of ultra-thin membranes, such as suspended 2D materials, could provide novel insights into the electronic properties of the materials.

Physics of Nanostructured Materials
External organisation(s)
Technische Universität Wien, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Scientific Reports
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
103042 Electron microscopy
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