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J Phys Condens Matter. 2012 Apr 18;24(15):155303. doi: 10.1088/0953-8984/24/15/155303. Epub 2012 Mar 23.

Enhanced dielectric constant resolution of thin insulating films by electrostatic force microscopy.

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  • 1Departamento de Ingeniería Informática, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Campus de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


Electrostatic force microscopy has been shown to be a useful tool to determine the dielectric constant of insulating films of nanometer thicknesses that play a key role in many electrical, optical and biological phenomena. Previous approaches have made use of simple analytical formulas to analyze the experimental data for thin insulating films deposited directly on a metallic substrate. Here we show that the sensitivity of the EFM signal to changes in the dielectric constant of the thin film can be enhanced by using dielectric substrates with low dielectric constants. We present detailed numerical calculations of the tip-sample electrostatic interaction in the following setup: an insulating thin film, a dielectric substrate (or spacing layer) of known low dielectric constant and a metallic electrode. The EFM sensitivity to the dielectric constant increases with the thickness of the spacing layer and saturates for thicknesses above 100-300 nm, when it is close to that of an infinite medium.

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