Conductive atomic force microscopy (CAFM) has become the preferred tool of many companies and academics to analyze the electronic properties of materials and devices at the nanoscale. This technique scans the surface of a sample using an ultrasharp conductive nanoprobe so that the contact area between them is very small (<100 nm2) and it can measure the properties of the sample with a very high lateral resolution. However, measuring relatively low currents (∼1 nA) in such small areas produces high current densities (∼1000 A/cm2), which almost always results in fast nanoprobe degradation. That is not only expensive but also endangers the reliability of the data collected because detecting which data sets are affected by tip degradation can be complex. Here, we show an inexpensive long-sought solution for this problem by using a current limitation system. We test its performance by measuring the tunneling current across a reference ultrathin dielectric when applying ramped voltage stresses at hundreds of randomly selected locations of its surface, and we conclude that the use of a current limitation system increases the lifetime of the tips by a factor of ∼50. Our work contributes to significantly enhance the reliability of one of the most important characterization techniques in the field of nanoelectronics.
- conductive atomic force microscopy
- current limitation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Materials Science