Meas. Sci. Technol. 8 (1997) 501–507.

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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

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

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

First mechanical resonance frequency The experiments described in section 3. This piezo tripod. Figure 5. The insets in figures 5(b) and 5(c) show a magnification of the main peak at 2.2. Coupling between axes in the Hitachi STM with the fine tripod: (a) coupling YX . However. and (c) coupling YZ . and (c) coupling YZ . (b) coupling XZ . Figures 5(a)–(c) show the results obtained where resonance at a lower frequency is 504 observed. Similar results were found when the axes were interchanged. The first peak in the three diagrams appears at 9. the Y X coupling shows little difference when compared to the results obtained from XZ and Y Z couplings for this tripod. the signal was measured. Coupling between axes in the Hitachi STM with the coarse tripod: (a) coupling YX . The most important response is that including the Z axis. the results obtained in this work indicate the opposite: it has the lowest mechanical resonance frequency. Y ) and 5 A ˚ V−1 (Z). (b) coupling XZ . i. However. with a first peak at 9. The same method was used to characterize the fine tripod of the Hitachi V-3000 STM with sensitivities of ˚ V−1 (X. the resonant frequencies obtained yield information about the mechanical coupling between axes. has a high frequency and is thus useful for high scan rates. because the image information originates from this axis. sensitivity and mechanical mounting made the Z axis completely different to the X and Y axes. Thus.5 kHz. Again. and Y Z combinations. under conditions (ii)—tunnel without feedback—and (iii)—tunnel . A small peak at 9. A magnification of the two peaks appearing between 15 and 16 kHz is shown in the inset of figure 4(b). and also with the feedback system operating. In fact. This tripod has long axial lengths and consequently should have a lower mechanical resonance frequency than the previously described tripod.1 were performed with the STM under condition (i) no tunnel. This tripod is small 10 A and compact.5 kHz appears in the Y X coupling. Figures 4(a)–(c) show the same axes combinations Y X . it is very important to measure the coupling response between axes. 3. Similar behaviour for XZ and Y Z combinations can be seen along the scanned frequency range. We can conclude that the average resonance frequency of this piezo is about 15 kHz—higher than that of the previous tripod. Because of this. usually the size.e. XZ .e. and 300 A ˚ V for Z (900 A piezo).A I Oliva et al Figure 4. The piezo tube scanner is usually expected to have a higher mechanical resonant frequency than the tripod scanner.5 kHz and a larger peak is found near 14 kHz. This result is consistent with the kind of tripod analysed and with the qualitative information given by the manufacturer. more interesting experimentation needs to be done when the STM is under the tunnel condition.75 kHz. the higher peak appears near 15 kHz. i. The experimentally obtained mechanical resonant frequency must be considered when choosing the scanning speed for imaging and setting the parameters of the feedback system. but using a coarse tripod with a lower sensitivity ˚ V−1 for X and Y piezos. Further measurements were taken with the same Hitachi STM. but in all three cases. at which frequencies a signal in one particular axis will perturb the other axes. The measurements described give information about the possible coupling and transfer function between axes that can affect the topographic information. XZ and Y Z . Figure 3 shows the responses measured in Y X .

Comparisons between conditions (ii) and (iii) have been reported in the literature (van de Walle et al 1985. We measured this parameter by using the following method: with the STM in tunnel conditions and the feedback system operating. are needed. by using an oscilloscope. To make a comparison with the no tunnel condition. The measurements were made with the STM in tunnel conditions and with the feedback system operating (condition (iii)). 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. The amplitude of the signal that appears in the tunnel current can also be measured: the peaks obtained correspond to a resonance. 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. Thus. Afterwards. the delay time of the perturbation and τ the period of the damped oscillation. 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). Basically.6 kHz and harmonics at 7.7 respectively. we compared conditions (i) and (iii). imply that the shift in the mechanical resonance is due to the tunnel process and not to the feedback system. the feedback system was prepared following the recommendations of Pohl (1986). 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. By comparing figures 6 and 5.e. 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 . 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. good values for damping.e. by observing the signal induced in one of those piezoelectrics the tripod mechanical resonant frequencies can be obtained. Stroscio and Kaiser 1993). a larger signal will appear in the X and Y piezos. to use equation (3). we devised a different experimental set-up to perform the experiment under condition (iii). 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 . They found that the resonant frequency is the same in both cases regardless of whether the feedback system was operating or not. However. The response that appears in the scan piezoelectric is measured as in the previous case. i. Since we have already measured f0 experimentally we can obtain the value of ζ . From the basic literature about harmonic motion. the tunnel junction and the electronic elements involved in the feedback circuit.2 and 10. The experiments were realized ˚ V−1 by using the Hitachi STM with a piezo of 300 A sensitivity. When the whole tripod is in resonance. The value of τ is obtained by measuring the decay time of the oscillation intensity. however. two more parameters. a square signal of very low frequency is added to the control signal to simulate a step. a sinusoidal signal is added to the control signal at the output of the control unit. Thus. In this case we know the combined action of the mechanical system. These values are of the same order of magnitude as others reported in the literature (Park and Quate 1987. 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.3. a scan in frequency is made. The tunnel signal will be a damped oscillation and the recovery time will be a measurement of the delay time τ . together with other reported results (van de Walle et al 1985). Thus. The damping factor ζ of the response can also be obtained directly from the experiment (without using the known value of f0 ). 3. it is therefore necessary to repeat the experiment with our STM system. Several curves obtained by this procedure were analysed to measure the damping behaviour. Delay time and damping factor We have described a way to obtain ω0 . (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. A clear main peak at 3. Then. cases with no tunnel and with tunnel current plus feedback. by using the logarithmic decrement method. obviously the STM has to be under condition (iii) tunnel with feedback. Note that peaks at other frequencies disappeared and only the main peak and its harmonics appear well defined. i.9 and 0. van Kempen and van de Walle 1986). Because of the definition. f0 = ω0 /2π . The results are 0. of the two tripods will be respectively f0 = 20/ζ kHz and f0 = 5/ζ kHz.8 kHz can be seen clearly. Because only the first mechanical resonant frequency is known. ζ and τ .STM feedback system parameters with feedback. In fact. This is a very important result: the actual first mechanical resonant frequency must be obtained while the STM is in the tunnel condition. the damping factor ζ will be δ ζ =√ 4π 2 + δ 2 (8) 505 . By using equation (5) we obtain that the resonant frequency. This is shown in figure 2(b). (7) Thus. 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. For this. it is possible to see that the tunnel signal is perturbed at the moment of the step. 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. Our results.

3 and ω0 = 14. 11 126 Oliva A I. Instrum. Instrum. Aguilar M and Pe˜ na J L 1995 Analysis of scanning tunneling microscope feedback system Rev. We obtained the first resonant frequency by using the experimental set-up shown in figure 2(b). In particular. References Binnig G and Rohrer H 1987 Scanning Tunneling Microscopy from Birth to Adolescence. Tech. 66 3196–203 Oliva A I. This is for the design and to obtain stable working conditions. Knowledge of the parameters involved assists the reliable and stable operation of a STM. 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. Instrum. By using this method we can ensure the consistency of both measurements. Corona E. Sci.68 rad/s. Sci. 4.3 kHz—a value lower than that in the case of the measured tripods. where δ is the logarithmic decrement and X1 and X2 are two consecutive amplitudes. 58 2004–9 . Sci. development and evaluation of a scanning tunneling microscope Rev. Anguiano E. we get ζ = 0. Syst. 62 3010–21 Jeon D and Willis R F 1991 Feedback system response in a scanning tunneling microscope Rev. Instrum. 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.e. Thus.6 kHz and its harmonics were found. Valencia M A and Pe˜ na J L 1996 A new STM design for atomic resolution Instrum. we repeated this procedure for a piezo tube scanner instead of a tripod with a STM built in our laboratory (Oliva et al 1996). Acknowledgments This work was made possible by the support of CONACyT (M´ exico) by grants 211085-5-4483A and 2362P-A. From this work. 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. A main peak at 3. when the resonance peak is damped.A I Oliva et al Figure 6. Usually. and CICYT. 3 32–6 Park S and Quate C F 1987 Theories of the feedback and vibration isolation systems for the scanning tunneling microscope Rev. 60 165–80 Nyquist H 1932 Bell. 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. i. Instrum. 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. From the curve obtained. Denisenko N. the bandwidth is diminished and this situation presents a comprise between stability and good scanning rate. Devel. Lex Prix Nobel en 1986 (The Nobel Foundations) pp 85–111 Hammiche A. Finally. Response of the whole STM feedback loop system in tunnel conditions with the feedback system operating. Spain (grant TIC95-09960-E). However. the STM with the piezo tube had a lower resonance frequency than all the STMs with tripods analysed in this work. Sci. the resonance frequency is f0 = 2. Wilson I H and Webb R P 1991 The Surrey STM: construction. Thanks are also given to the DGICYT-MEC (Spain) for partial support to the stay of M Aguilar in CINVESTAV IPN-M´ erida. Sci. Wei Y. 62 1650–1 Kuk Y and Silverman P J 1989 Scanning tunneling microscope instrumentation Rev. 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.

NJ: Prentice-Hall) van Kempen H and van de Walle G F A 1986 Applications of a high-stability scanning tunneling microscope IBM J. Sci. Instrum. 30 509–14 van de Walle G F A. Res. Develop. 56 1573–6 507 . van Kempen H and Wyder P 1985 High-stability scanning tunneling microscope Rev. Gerritsen J W. 4 677–81 Pohl D W 1986 Some design criteria in scanning tunneling microscopy IBM J. Technol. 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. Res. Sci.STM feedback system parameters Ping G and Player M A 1993 Control system analysis of a scanning tunneling microscope Meas.

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