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Rev Sci Instrum. 2011 Oct;82(10):103702. doi: 10.1063/1.3646468.

A compact sub-Kelvin ultrahigh vacuum scanning tunneling microscope with high energy resolution and high stability.

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Physikalisches Institut, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany.


We designed a scanning tunneling microscope working at sub-Kelvin temperatures in ultrahigh vacuum (UHV) in order to study the magnetic properties on the nanoscale. An entirely homebuilt three-stage cryostat is used to cool down the microscope head. The first stage is cooled with liquid nitrogen, the second stage with liquid (4)He. The third stage uses a closed-cycle Joule-Thomson refrigerator of a cooling power of 1 mW. A base temperature of 930 mK at the microscope head was achieved using expansion of (4)He, which can be reduced to ≈400 mK when using (3)He. The cryostat has a low liquid helium consumption of only 38 ml/h and standing times of up to 280 h. The fast cooling down of the samples (3 h) guarantees high sample throughput. Test experiments with a superconducting tip show a high energy resolution of 0.3 meV when performing scanning tunneling spectroscopy. The vertical stability of the tunnel junction is well below 1 pm (peak to peak) and the electric noise floor of tunneling current is about 6fA/√Hz. Atomic resolution with a tunneling current of 1 pA and 1 mV was achieved on Au(111). The lateral drift of the microscope at stable temperature is below 20 pm/h. A superconducting spilt-coil magnet allows to apply an out-of-plane magnetic field of up to 3 T at the sample surface. The flux vortices of a Nb(110) sample were clearly resolved in a map of differential conductance at 1.1 K and a magnetic field of 0.21 T. The setup is designed for in situ preparation of tip and samples under UHV condition.


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