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Journal Article

Quantitative imaging of electric surface potentials with single-atom sensitivity


Ferri,  Nicola
Theory, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;


Tkatchenko,  Alexandre
Theory, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;
Physics and Materials Science Research Unit, University of Luxembourg;

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Wagner, C., Green, M. F. B., Maiworm, M., Leinen, P., Esat, T., Ferri, N., et al. (2019). Quantitative imaging of electric surface potentials with single-atom sensitivity. Nature Materials, 18(8), 853-859. doi:10.1038/s41563-019-0382-8.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-E6FC-E
Because materials consist of positive nuclei and negative electrons, electric potentials are omnipresent at the atomic scale. However, due to the long range of the Coulomb interaction, large-scale structures completely outshine small ones. This makes the isolation and quantification of the electric potentials that originate from nanoscale objects such as atoms or molecules very challenging. Here we report a non-contact scanning probe technique that addresses this challenge. It exploits a quantum dot sensor and the joint electrostatic screening by tip and surface, thus enabling quantitative surface potential imaging across all relevant length scales down to single atoms. We apply the technique to the characterization of a nanostructured surface, thereby extracting workfunction changes and dipole moments for important reference systems. This authenticates the method as a versatile tool to study the building blocks of materials and devices down to the atomic scale.