Image of the Month

March 2017

Ultrafast terahertz control of extreme tunnel currents through single atoms on a silicone surface

institution

Figure 2 | Imaging silicon atoms with terahertz-driven scanning tunnelling microscopy (TD-STM). a. Topographic images of the Si(111)-(7 x 7) surface measured in constant-current mode with standard STM at Vd.c. = -0.5 V, ETHz,pk = 0 V cm-1, Id.c. = -20 pA b. and terahertz-driven STM (TD-STM) of the same region with Vd.c. = 0 V, ETHz,pk = -200 V cm-1ITHz,avg = -20 pA

Abstract
Ultrafast control of current on the atomic scale is essential for future innovations in nanoelectronics. Extremely localized transient electric fields on the nanoscale can be achieved by coupling picosecond duration terahertz pulses to metallic nanostructures. Here, we demonstrate terahertz scanning tunnelling microscopy (THz-STM) in ultrahigh vacuum as a new platform for exploring ultrafast non-equilibrium tunnelling dynamics with atomic precision. Extreme terahertz-pulse-driven tunnel currents up to 107 times larger than steady-state currents in conventional STM are used to image individual atoms on a silicon surface with 0.3 nm spacial resolution. At terahertz frequencies, the metallic-like Si(111)-(7 x 7) surface is unable to screen the electric field from the bulk, resulting in a terahertz tunnel conductance that is fundamentally different than that of the steady state. Ultrafast terahertz-induced band bending and non-equilibrium charging of surface states open new conduction pathways to the bulk, enabling extreme transient tunnel currents to flow between the tip and sample.

Public Reference:
NATURE PHYSICS: DOI: 10.1038/NPHYS4047

Credits:
Vedran Jelic1*, Krzysztof Iwaszczuk2, Peter H. Nguyen1, Christopher Rathje3, Graham J. Hornig1, Haille M. Sharum1, James R. Hoffman1, Mark R. Freeman1 and Frank A. Hegmann1*

1Department of Physics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E1, Canada. 2DTU Fotonik – Department of Photonics Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, DK-2800 Kongens Lyngby, Denmark. 34th Physical Institute, University of Gottingen, 37077 Gottingen, Germany.
*e-mail: jelic@ualberta.ca;, hegmann@ualberta.ca

Microscope:
RHK UHV3500 STM/AFM with Inverted Viewport

Control System:
RHK SPM1000