Oxide thickness mapping of ultrathin Al[sub 2]O[sub 3] at nanometer scale with conducting atomic force microscopy

Olbrich, Alexander; Ebersberger, Bernd; Boit, Christian; Vancea, Johann; Hoffmann, Horst; Altmann, Hans; Gieres, Guenther; Wecker, Joachim
May 2001
Applied Physics Letters;5/7/2001, Vol. 78 Issue 19, p2934
Academic Journal
In this work, we introduce conducting atomic force microscopy (C-AFM) for the quantitative electrical characterization of ultrathin Al[sub 2]O[sub 3] films on a nanometer scale length. By applying a voltage between the AFM tip and the conductive Co substrate direct tunneling currents in the sub pA range are measured simultaneously to the oxide surface topography. From the microscopic I-V characteristics the local oxide thickness can be obtained with an accuracy of 0.03 nm. A conversion scheme was developed, which allows the calculation of three-dimensional maps of the local electrical oxide thickness with sub-angstrom thickness resolution and nanometer lateral resolution from the tunneling current images. Local tunneling current variations of up to three decades are correlated with the topography and local variations of the electrical oxide thickness of only a few angstroms. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.


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