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Controlling the charge of gold nano-islands by NC-AFM

On the road towards voltage nano sources...

by PREVOTS Evelyne, PREVOTS Evelyne - published on , updated on

Gold nano-islands deposited on an insulating substrate (SiO2) have been electrically charged using a non contact atomic force microscope (NC-AFM). Charge injection is performed by field emission from the tip to the nano-island or reversely. The simulation of this charging mechanism shows that the injected charge is controllable at the single electron level.

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Topography and Kelvin potential image of an Au nano-island on SiO2 before (a,b) and after (d,e) charging.
(c) ∆f(V) curves measured on a nano-island showing the charging effect. The forward blue curve is recorded before the backward red one.

Flat metallic islands on an insulating substrate can be used as electron reservoirs to contact a molecule or a graphene nanoribbon in a planar geometry for molecular electronics applications. The challenge is then to control and to stabilize the charge on a metallic nanocrystal for a time long enough to perform in-plane operations. This challenge was taken up using the tip of a nc-AFM microscope to control the charging of 2D Au nano-islands synthesized ex-situ and deposited on a SiO2 insulating substrate. We image the platelets in the nc-AFM mode [1] and characterize their charge state by Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy (KPFM) (see the figure) [2,3]. Our results demonstrate that the charge of the metallic island can be controlled by electron field emission to or from the tip of a nc-AFM by monitoring ∆f(V) spectroscopy curves, as shown in figure (c). The procedure works for both polarities, electrons being emitted by the tip to the nano-island or reversely. As shown by an analytical model and complementary numerical simulations, the rise of the island’s potential upon charging leads to a constant charging current and tip-island electric field [4]. Our measurements suggest that this method can be used to set the island potential within a 10 mV precision, corresponding to the transfer of a single electron. This degree of control is achieved thanks to the increased stability and sensitivity provided by the UHV environment. The procedure is robust and opens the way to original experiments, such as establishing a bias at the extremities of a molecule connected between two islands or exploring locally the charge leaking mechanisms across an insulating layer.

  1. F. J. Giessibl, Rev. Mod. Phys. 75, 949 (2003).
  2. M. Nonnenmacher, M. P. O’Boyle, and H. K. Wickramasinghe, Appl. Phys. Lett. 58, 2921 (1991).
  3. Shin’ichi Kitamura and Masashi Iwatsuki, Appl. Phys. Lett. 72, 3154 (1998).



Bulent BARIS, Mohanad ALCHAAR, Janak PRASAD, Sébastien GAUTHIER, Erik DUJARDIN, and David MARTROU "Controlling the electric charge of gold nanoplatelets on an insulator by field emission nc-AFM" (editors-pick), Applied Physics Letters, 112, 113101 (2018)



dmartrou at cemes.fr