Journal article Open Access

Field emission characteristics of the scanning tunneling microscope for nanolithography

Mayer, T. M.

We present a systematic study of the performance of scanning tunneling microscope (STM)‐based, low energy electron beam lithography, using simulations of field emission from STM tips, emphasizing realistic conditions of tip geometry and operation. We calculate the potentials and electric field for a hemispherical model emitter in an axially symmetric system. Emission current density at the tip is calculated using the Fowler–Nordheim equation, and current density at the sample is obtained by calculating trajectories of emitted electrons. We characterize the beam diameter at the sample as a function of emitter radius, tip–sample bias, emission current, resist thickness, and tip work function. The beam diameter is primarily affected by the tip–sample gap, increasing at larger gaps, characteristic of high bias and large tip curvature. For optimal tip radius the beam diameter increases linearly with bias from approximately 2 nm at 5 V to 25 nm at 50 V. Beam diameter is nearly independent of emission current over the range 0.05–50 nA. Dielectric resist films cause an increase in beam diameter due to increased tip–substrate gap. Beam diameter is very sensitive to tip work function, increasing dramatically for low work function tips. Tips comprised of asperities on flat surfaces produce significantly smaller beams compared to ''standard'' tips of the same emitter radius. However, for low bias (<15 V) beam diameter becomes insensitive to tip geometry. We compare these simulations to selected experimental results to evaluate the limitations to performance and assess the feasibility of routine sub‐10 nm structure fabrication using STM‐based low energy electron beam lithography.
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