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Rev Sci Instrum. 2012 Dec;83(12):123701. doi: 10.1063/1.4769047.

A scanning tunneling microscope capable of imaging specified micron-scale small samples.

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High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Chinese Academy of Sciences and University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui 230026, People's Republic of China.


We present a home-built scanning tunneling microscope (STM) which allows us to precisely position the tip on any specified small sample or sample feature of micron scale. The core structure is a stand-alone soft junction mechanical loop (SJML), in which a small piezoelectric tube scanner is mounted on a sliding piece and a "U"-like soft spring strip has its one end fixed to the sliding piece and its opposite end holding the tip pointing to the sample on the scanner. Here, the tip can be precisely aligned to a specified small sample of micron scale by adjusting the position of the spring-clamped sample on the scanner in the field of view of an optical microscope. The aligned SJML can be transferred to a piezoelectric inertial motor for coarse approach, during which the U-spring is pushed towards the sample, causing the tip to approach the pre-aligned small sample. We have successfully approached a hand cut tip that was made from 0.1 mm thin Pt∕Ir wire to an isolated individual 32.5 × 32.5 μm(2) graphite flake. Good atomic resolution images and high quality tunneling current spectra for that specified tiny flake are obtained in ambient conditions with high repeatability within one month showing high and long term stability of the new STM structure. In addition, frequency spectra of the tunneling current signals do not show outstanding tip mount related resonant frequency (low frequency), which further confirms the stability of the STM structure.

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