Force microscopy on insulators: Imaging of organic molecules

O. Pfeiffer, E. Gnecco, L. Zimmerli, S. Maier, E. Meyer, L. Nony, R. Bennewitz, F. Diederich, H. Fang, D. Bonifazi,
J. Phys.: Conf. Ser. 2005, 19, 166-174
DOI: 10.1088/1742-6596/19/1/027


So far, most of the high resolution scanning probe microscopy studies of organic molecules were restricted to metallic substrates. Insulating substrates are mandatory when the molecules need to be electrically decoupled in a electronic circuit. In such a case, atomic force microscopy is required. In this paper we will discuss our recent studies on different organic molecules deposited on KBr surfaces in ultra-high vacuum, and then imaged by AFM at room temperature. The distance between tip and surface was controlled either by the frequency-shift of the cantilever resonance or by the excitation signal required to keep the oscillation amplitude constant. Advantages and drawbacks of both techniques are discussed. The high mobility of the molecules, due to their weak interaction with the substrate, hinders the formation of regular self assembled structures. To overcome this problem we created artificial structures on the surface by annealing and by electron irradiation, which made possible the growth of the molecules onto step edges and their confinement into rectangular pits.

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