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Rev Sci Instrum. 2007 Feb;78(2):023702.

Measuring material softening with nanoscale spatial resolution using heated silicon probes.

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Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0405, USA.


This article describes the use of heated silicon atomic force microscopy probes to perform local thermal analysis (LTA) of a thin film of polystyrene. The experiments measure film softening behavior with 100 nm spatial resolution, whereas previous research on LTA used probes that had a resolution near 10 microm, which was too large to investigate some types of features. This article demonstrates four methods by which heated silicon probes can perform thermal analysis with nanoscale spatial resolution. The polystyrene softening temperature measured from nanoscale LTA techniques is 120 degrees C, compared to 100 degrees C, measured with bulk ellipsometry. The discrepancy is attributed to the thermal contact resistance at the end of the silicon probe tip, on the order of 10(7)K/W, which modulates heat flow between the tip and sample and governs the fundamental limits of this technique. The use of a silicon probe for LTA enables bulk fabrication, parallelization for high-throughput analysis, and fabrication of a sharp tip capable of nanoscale spatial resolution.

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