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PII: S0957-0233(97)77482-4

**Experimental determination of the parameters of the feedback system of a scanning tunnelling microscope
**

˜ † and E Anguiano§ A I Oliva†, M Aguilar†‡, J L Pena

´ y de Estudios Avanzados del IPN, Unidad Merida, ´ † Centro de Investigacion ´ ´ Mexico ´ AP 73 Cordemex, 97310 Merida Yucatan, ´ § Instituto Ciencia de Materiales (CSIC), Campus Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain Received 30 August 1996, in ﬁnal form 11 November 1996, accepted for publication 21 January 1997 Abstract. The experimental determination of the main parameters of the feedback system in a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) is discussed. Knowledge of these parameters allows one to determine accurately the region where unstable STM operation could affect measurements, and also to set the optimal working conditions to obtain high-quality images. Each parameter involved in the feedback circuitry is analysed and discussed as are their mutual interactions. Different working conditions are simulated and analysed in order to determine the parameters needed for stable operation.

1. Introduction The scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) invented by Binnig and Rohrer (1987) is today a standard instrument in surface science laboratories because of its capability to obtain images with atomic resolution. The STM utilizes the high sensitivity of the tunnel current ﬂowing through the gap formed between the sample and a sharp tip. By controlling this current and scanning the tip over the surface of the sample, the topography of the surface with atomic resolution and/or measurements of some electronic properties of the sample can be obtained. Control of the vertical movement of the tip (mounted on a piezoelectric) is possible by a feedback circuit that allows stable and precise movement. The tip movement quality depends strongly on the parameters used for control and the feedback mechanisms employed. A typical feedback system used in a STM is shown in ﬁgure 1 where each component is shown. In general, the feedback system compares a set-up reference (Vr ) with the value given by the actual system. The error signal between them is used to generate a compensation signal in order to obtain the control value in the output that compensates the system perturbations. The use of inadequate values for the control parameters can produce instabilities and imprecise movements of the tip during scanning, yielding false information or even worse, oscillations in the system. Some pioneering works describe models for STM feedback systems. The ﬁrst model was realized by Park

‡ On sabbatical leave from: Instituto Ciencia de Materiales (CSIC), Campus Universidad Aut´ onoma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain. 0957-0233/97/050501+07$19.50 c 1997 IOP Publishing Ltd

and Quate (1987). However, this model is not helpful in the laboratory because a clear way to obtain some of the parameters used was not described and this imposes severe limitations in the feedback loop. Kuk and Silverman (1989) presented a more realistic model that included the transient response. In this work, for the ﬁrst time the mechanical response of the tunnel junction as a double pole system in order to obtain instabilities was considered. Important parameters in this model are the natural frequency ω0 of the tunnel junction and the quality factor Q. More recently, an experimental method to determine the optimal feedback parameters for the critically damped response has been proposed (Jeon and Willis 1991), thus dispensing with the need to use mathematics to ﬁnd out the analytic solution. Other workers (Hammiche et al 1991, Ping and Player 1993) have used mathematical models as approximations, but they do not explain how to obtain the parameters involved experimentally. A book by Stroscio and Kaiser (1993) offers, in the chapter on instrumentation, a general account of the stability of the tunnel loop suggesting a resonant model characterized by an additional parameter: a factor α related to the phase response. However no hint as to how to locate the stability region of a particular STM is given. In this article we describe experimental work to obtain the main variables involved in a general feedback system implemented on a STM by using a theoretical model previously proposed (Oliva et al 1995). We analyse the case when the mechanical component has two poles (the most simple case) and consequently oscillations. We brieﬂy describe the model and show how to ﬁnd a zone to achieve

501

3. we ﬁrst describe the possible forms of measurement of the parameters: . . proportional control. In this case this condition is given by the inverter input of G1 . the value of each parameter. In a previous paper (Oliva et al 1995) we discussed a mathematical model for the STM feedback system. generating the feedback cycle. characteristic of each STM system. in terms of the damping factor ζ as (1 − ζ 2 ) = KI 2 KI + G2 τ ω0 .A I Oliva et al Figure 1. Experimental procedure We need to know the values of the different variables involved in equation (3) to obtain the stable region of the STM. The feedback system consists of a proportional–integral controller (β in the ﬁgure) whose output signal feeds the Z piezoelectric (see later). Fn ) as ﬁlters. ω0 and τ . . optimal values of the control system in order to avoid instabilities.e. The last equation gives some restrictions on the stability regions of the STM. such as ﬁlters. This value (in volts) is sent to the comparator G1 . in a real situation. In order to clarify the following discussion. As a result the z -piezo will suffer elongation. (2) Taking the real part of the Nyquist diagram. We then describe the experimental work to be done in order to ﬁnd. 2. and several RC poles (F1 . By applying the 502 Nyquist criteria (Nyquist 1932) for stable conditions in the feedback system. ζ . assuming that the piezo has a double pole behaviour (i. different elements in the direct loop are used. It is necessary to have an inverter element in the circuit for loop stability. The particular components of a STM system such as the I –V converter. Control system description and feedback model Figure 1 shows the elements involved in a traditional feedback system on a STM. The tunnel current is detected in the tunnel junction by using a I –V converter with variable gain and its output is sent to the logarithmic ampliﬁer for linearization of the feedback system. integral control. In the next section we show how to measure these variables. Other element of the circuit are the high-voltage ampliﬁer with gain A to increase the elongation of the piezos. Typical feedback loop diagram of a STM. . This element gives a signal proportional to the error between this voltage and the reference voltage. instabilities can be present). In order to minimize the error signal (after comparison). the logarithmic ampliﬁer and the tunnel junction are also in the feedback loop. this will change the tip–sample distance (δ) and consequently will change the value of the tunnel current. but they are expressed as a function of the unknown variables. Equation (1) can be written in the usual form corresponding to a damped harmonic oscillator. we obtain the condition for stability G0 KI τ + G2 ζ 2 <1 2 2 KI + (1 + ζ 2 )ω0 τ (3) where G0 is the total gain of the closed loop. we obtained a relation between the natural or resonant frequency ω0 and the working frequency 2 ω2 = ω0 KI 2 KI + G2 τ ω0 (1) where KI is the integration constant related to the RC factor of the circuit by KI = 1/RC . etc. .

1. The drawback is the relative low mechanical resonance frequencies for large scan tripods. we made the mechanical characterization of the STM when no tunnel current was detected. The STM head is the mechanical part where the tunnel junction (tip and sample) is located. small coupling between axes and similar mechanical resonant frequencies for the three axes. Another STM was used with a piezo tube arrangement. (iii) tunnel with feedback—a tunnel current is established between tip and sample while the feedback system is operative.STM feedback system parameters Figure 2. (b) the ﬁrst mechanical resonance frequency of the STM under tunnel conditions and with the feedback system operating. Coupling between axes As a ﬁrst approximation. i. and (c) coupling YZ . Both types of scanners are used in STM equipment with different conﬁgurations. the tip was far away from the sample (condition (i) no tunnel). The tripod has a sensitivity of 9 A −1 ˚ X and Y axes and of 5 A V for the Z piezo. the ﬁrst letter refers to the axis to which the signal was applied. Figure 3. high rigidity implies a high value of ω0 . The tube can present higher mechanical resonance frequencies in the Z direction because of its compact body (only one piece). when we mention AB combination or coupling. ‡ Nissei Sangyo America Ltd. CA 94043. The next subsections describe the work done to measure the values of the main parameters (usually unknown) involved in the feedback system. the response of one axis of the tripod when an oscillating signal was applied to other axis (see ﬁgure 2(a)). Two commercial STM heads ﬁtted with tripods were used: WA Technology (WA Technology Ltd†) and Hitachi model V-3000 (Hitachi Scientiﬁc Instruments Ltd‡). (ii) tunnel without feedback—the tip is approached manually to the sample until a tunnel current is obtained. Mountain View. with a lock-in ampliﬁer (LA). The tripod is formed by three elements in an orthogonal arrangement and the advantages of this system are good orthogonality (even for large scanners). This is the usual mode of operation of a STM. piezo tubes yield nonlinear scans. scanning and data acquisition as well as the software to control the whole system. 755 Ravendale Drive. 3. Cambridge CB4 3NP. The degree of rigidity of this mechanical structure is directly related to the value of the ﬁrst mechanical resonant frequency ω0 . In fact. However. French’s Road. This is an unstable condition because the feedback system is disconnected. the tunnel current is lost. Figures 3(a)– (c) show the TF region between 1 and 16 kHz. Usually. The piezoelectric scanner is available in two conﬁgurations: tripod and tube. (i) no tunnel—the tip is far away from the sample and no tunnel current is present. (b) coupling XZ . Figure 3 shows the results obtained with the piezo tripod of the STM from WA ˚ V−1 for the Technology. USA. A scan in frequency was performed and the transfer function (TF) between axes was obtained by means of the LA. after a short time. For simplicity. large coupling between axes and low X and Y mechanical resonant frequencies. In this work we mainly used tripods based in different STMs and piezoelectrics with low and high sensitivities and large and short lengths. each element involved was known to us. With this arrangement we obtained. Because we developed the STM control. Experimental set-up implemented to determine: (a) the frequency response of the mechanical coupling between axes. 503 . and the second letter refers to the axis from which † Chesterton Mills.e. Coupling between axes in the WA Technology STM: (a) coupling YX . UK.

and Y Z combinations. However. and also with the feedback system operating. Similar results were found when the axes were interchanged. The same method was used to characterize the ﬁne tripod of the Hitachi V-3000 STM with sensitivities of ˚ V−1 (X. The experimentally obtained mechanical resonant frequency must be considered when choosing the scanning speed for imaging and setting the parameters of the feedback system. and (c) coupling YZ . (b) coupling XZ . This result is consistent with the kind of tripod analysed and with the qualitative information given by the manufacturer. A small peak at 9. In fact. Because of this. the higher peak appears near 15 kHz. Figures 4(a)–(c) show the same axes combinations Y X . (b) coupling XZ . XZ . it is very important to measure the coupling response between axes. has a high frequency and is thus useful for high scan rates. 3. A magniﬁcation of the two peaks appearing between 15 and 16 kHz is shown in the inset of ﬁgure 4(b). Thus. Coupling between axes in the Hitachi STM with the ﬁne tripod: (a) coupling YX . and (c) coupling YZ . The most important response is that including the Z axis. because the image information originates from this axis.75 kHz. and 300 A ˚ V for Z (900 A piezo). First mechanical resonance frequency The experiments described in section 3.2. XZ and Y Z . We can conclude that the average resonance frequency of this piezo is about 15 kHz—higher than that of the previous tripod. This tripod is small 10 A and compact. i. but in all three cases. Figure 5.e. the Y X coupling shows little difference when compared to the results obtained from XZ and Y Z couplings for this tripod. The ﬁrst peak in the three diagrams appears at 9. more interesting experimentation needs to be done when the STM is under the tunnel condition. Figure 3 shows the responses measured in Y X . Y ) and 5 A ˚ V−1 (Z). Similar behaviour for XZ and Y Z combinations can be seen along the scanned frequency range.5 kHz and a larger peak is found near 14 kHz. This piezo tripod. at which frequencies a signal in one particular axis will perturb the other axes. under conditions (ii)—tunnel without feedback—and (iii)—tunnel . sensitivity and mechanical mounting made the Z axis completely different to the X and Y axes. This tripod has long axial lengths and consequently should have a lower mechanical resonance frequency than the previously described tripod. but using a coarse tripod with a lower sensitivity ˚ V−1 for X and Y piezos. the signal was measured. The measurements described give information about the possible coupling and transfer function between axes that can affect the topographic information. Further measurements were taken with the same Hitachi STM. Figures 5(a)–(c) show the results obtained where resonance at a lower frequency is 504 observed.A I Oliva et al Figure 4. with a ﬁrst peak at 9. i. the resonant frequencies obtained yield information about the mechanical coupling between axes. usually the size.5 kHz.1 were performed with the STM under condition (i) no tunnel. the results obtained in this work indicate the opposite: it has the lowest mechanical resonance frequency.e.5 kHz appears in the Y X coupling. Again. However. The insets in ﬁgures 5(b) and 5(c) show a magniﬁcation of the main peak at 2. The piezo tube scanner is usually expected to have a higher mechanical resonant frequency than the tripod scanner. Coupling between axes in the Hitachi STM with the coarse tripod: (a) coupling YX .

The results are 0. The experiments were realized ˚ V−1 by using the Hitachi STM with a piezo of 300 A sensitivity. In fact. however.2 and 10. cases with no tunnel and with tunnel current plus feedback. In this case we know the combined action of the mechanical system.6 kHz and harmonics at 7. Basically. a larger signal will appear in the X and Y piezos.9 and 0. To make a comparison with the no tunnel condition. Thus. by using the logarithmic decrement method. by observing the signal induced in one of those piezoelectrics the tripod mechanical resonant frequencies can be obtained. Delay time and damping factor We have described a way to obtain ω0 . obviously the STM has to be under condition (iii) tunnel with feedback. Comparisons between conditions (ii) and (iii) have been reported in the literature (van de Walle et al 1985. This result should not be misinterpreted in the light of work published by the van de Walle group (van de Walle et al 1985) who compared the resonance frequency between conditions (ii) and (iii). we can deduce the value of the damping factor if we know two consecutive amplitudes of the damping motion by means of the following relation: δ = ln X1 = X2 2π ζ 1 − ζ2 . to use equation (3). together with other reported results (van de Walle et al 1985). the damping factor ζ will be δ ζ =√ 4π 2 + δ 2 (8) 505 . it is therefore necessary to repeat the experiment with our STM system. it is possible to see that the tunnel signal is perturbed at the moment of the step. 3. the experimental set-up used is similar to that shown in ﬁgure 2(b) with an oscilloscope (or an A/D converter) connected in parallel with the I –V converter. Our results. From the basic literature about harmonic motion. of the two tripods will be respectively f0 = 20/ζ kHz and f0 = 5/ζ kHz.STM feedback system parameters with feedback. We measured this parameter by using the following method: with the STM in tunnel conditions and the feedback system operating. we compared conditions (i) and (iii). Stroscio and Kaiser 1993). a scan in frequency is made. The value of τ is obtained by measuring the decay time of the oscillation intensity. The response that appears in the scan piezoelectric is measured as in the previous case. Because of the deﬁnition. the tunnel junction and the electronic elements involved in the feedback circuit. The tunnel signal will be a damped oscillation and the recovery time will be a measurement of the delay time τ . A clear main peak at 3. This is a very important result: the actual ﬁrst mechanical resonant frequency must be obtained while the STM is in the tunnel condition. However. Afterwards. Several curves obtained by this procedure were analysed to measure the damping behaviour. Because only the ﬁrst mechanical resonant frequency is known. ζ and τ . By using equation (5) we obtain that the resonant frequency. The amplitude of the signal that appears in the tunnel current can also be measured: the peaks obtained correspond to a resonance. By comparing ﬁgures 6 and 5. Thus.e. i. Figure 6 shows the amplitude of the signal induced in the X axis as a function of the frequency of the oscillation applied to the Z axis.e. (5) (6) The values of the delay time measured on the Hitachi STM were 50 ms for the ﬁne tripod and 200 ms for the coarse piezo. Since we have already measured f0 experimentally we can obtain the value of ζ .7 respectively. When the whole tripod is in resonance. This is shown in ﬁgure 2(b). by using an oscilloscope. we devised a different experimental set-up to perform the experiment under condition (iii). Then. a square signal of very low frequency is added to the control signal to simulate a step. The measurements were made with the STM in tunnel conditions and with the feedback system operating (condition (iii)). the amplitude of the damped oscillation follows the equation (Thomson 1981) X = X0 [exp(−2π t/τ ) sin(2π t/τ + φ)] (4) where τ is the decay time of the oscillation. The damping factor ζ of the response can also be obtained directly from the experiment (without using the known value of f0 ). The delay time τ is the time necessary for recovery of the tunnel current signal when an instantaneous perturbation affects the stability of the tunnel junction. are needed. These values are of the same order of magnitude as others reported in the literature (Park and Quate 1987. (7) Thus. the feedback system was prepared following the recommendations of Pohl (1986). van Kempen and van de Walle 1986). They found that the resonant frequency is the same in both cases regardless of whether the feedback system was operating or not. two more parameters. it can be seen that the resonance frequency for tunnel conditions with feedback is at a higher frequency than when the STM is not in the tunnel condition. good values for damping. For this. Both τ and τ are related to the natural frequency of oscillation of the system ω0 and the damping factor ζ by the following relationships: 2π/t = ζ ω0 2π/t = ω0 (1 − ζ 2 )1/2 . imply that the shift in the mechanical resonance is due to the tunnel process and not to the feedback system. f0 = ω0 /2π . the delay time of the perturbation and τ the period of the damped oscillation.8 kHz can be seen clearly.3. Any other method based on mechanical resonance of the STM head—without it being in tunnel conditions—will not yield the value necessary to perform feedback analysis. i. Note that peaks at other frequencies disappeared and only the main peak and its harmonics appear well deﬁned. a sinusoidal signal is added to the control signal at the output of the control unit. the value of the resonance frequency measured in the tunnel condition is necessary for the design and use of feedback control and needs to be considered in the selection of the scan rate. Thus.

where δ is the logarithmic decrement and X1 and X2 are two consecutive amplitudes. Finally. Spain (grant TIC95-09960-E). Acknowledgments This work was made possible by the support of CONACyT (M´ exico) by grants 211085-5-4483A and 2362P-A. It should be remembered that ζ is related to the integration constant K1 and the gain G2 through equation (2). Experiments performed with the STM in tunnel conditions enable the real resonance frequency for the whole feedback loop system to be 506 determined. Knowledge of the parameters involved assists the reliable and stable operation of a STM. we repeated this procedure for a piezo tube scanner instead of a tripod with a STM built in our laboratory (Oliva et al 1996).3 and ω0 = 14.6 kHz and its harmonics were found.e. 3 32–6 Park S and Quate C F 1987 Theories of the feedback and vibration isolation systems for the scanning tunneling microscope Rev.A I Oliva et al Figure 6. the resonance frequency is f0 = 2. development and evaluation of a scanning tunneling microscope Rev. From the curve obtained. the performance of a STM cannot be assumed by consideration of the scanner design only—the response of the complete mechanical structure must also be measured. Instrum. the STM with the piezo tube had a lower resonance frequency than all the STMs with tripods analysed in this work. Lex Prix Nobel en 1986 (The Nobel Foundations) pp 85–111 Hammiche A. Thanks are also given to the DGICYT-MEC (Spain) for partial support to the stay of M Aguilar in CINVESTAV IPN-M´ erida. By using this method we can ensure the consistency of both measurements. the bandwidth is diminished and this situation presents a comprise between stability and good scanning rate. Sci. In particular. Wei Y. Anguiano E. We obtained the ﬁrst resonant frequency by using the experimental set-up shown in ﬁgure 2(b). Aguilar M and Pe˜ na J L 1995 Analysis of scanning tunneling microscope feedback system Rev. 62 3010–21 Jeon D and Willis R F 1991 Feedback system response in a scanning tunneling microscope Rev. Instrum. Sci. Usually. We checked that the result was the same for the three tripods. we proposed an experimental method to ﬁnd coupling frequencies between axes in two types of scanners to ﬁnd their resonance frequencies.3 kHz—a value lower than that in the case of the measured tripods. Wilson I H and Webb R P 1991 The Surrey STM: construction. 66 3196–203 Oliva A I. A main peak at 3. Instrum. 11 126 Oliva A I. Devel. Conclusions In this work the parameters which must be considered for analysis of a STM feedback control system have been discussed and procedures to measure these values have been described. Tech. and CICYT. 60 165–80 Nyquist H 1932 Bell. we conclude that it is necessary to have a through characterization of the STM employed and control of the parameters used in the feedback control in order to obtain reliable images. Denisenko N. Thus. References Binnig G and Rohrer H 1987 Scanning Tunneling Microscopy from Birth to Adolescence. 4. 62 1650–1 Kuk Y and Silverman P J 1989 Scanning tunneling microscope instrumentation Rev. Corona E. Valencia M A and Pe˜ na J L 1996 A new STM design for atomic resolution Instrum. This is for the design and to obtain stable working conditions. 58 2004–9 . Sci. Instrum.68 rad/s. Sci. From this work. Syst. when the resonance peak is damped. These results are interesting because it is usually argued that a STM built with a piezo tube scanner has a higher mechanical resonance and (as a result) higher performance than one incorporating a piezo tripod. i. Instrum. Response of the whole STM feedback loop system in tunnel conditions with the feedback system operating. Sci. we get ζ = 0. However.

4 677–81 Pohl D W 1986 Some design criteria in scanning tunneling microscopy IBM J. NJ: Prentice-Hall) van Kempen H and van de Walle G F A 1986 Applications of a high-stability scanning tunneling microscope IBM J. Develop. Res. 56 1573–6 507 . 30 417–27 Stroscio J A and Kaiser W J (eds) 1993 Scanning tunneling microscope Methods of Experimental Physics vol 27 (New York: Academic) Thomson W T 1981 Theory of Vibration with Applications 2nd edn (Englewood Cliffs. Develop. Sci.STM feedback system parameters Ping G and Player M A 1993 Control system analysis of a scanning tunneling microscope Meas. Technol. van Kempen H and Wyder P 1985 High-stability scanning tunneling microscope Rev. Res. Instrum. 30 509–14 van de Walle G F A. Gerritsen J W. Sci.

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