Scanning tunneling spectroscopy
Scanning tunneling spectroscopy (STS), an extension of scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), is used to provide information about the density of electrons in a sample as a function of their energy.In scanning tunneling microscopy, a metal tip is moved over a conducting sample without making mechanical contact. A bias voltage between the sample and tip allows a current to flow between the tip and the sample even though they are not in contact. This can occur because of quantum mechanical tunneling, hence the name of the instrument.The scanning tunneling microscope is used to obtain ""topographs"" - topographic maps - of surfaces. The tip is rastered across a surface and (in constant current mode), a constant current is maintained between the tip and the sample by adjusting the height of the tip. A plot of the tip height at all measurement positions on the raster provides the topograph. These topographic images can obtain information that is atomically resolved, and images of metal and semiconductor surfaces can be obtained with atomic precision.However, the scanning tunneling microscope does not measure the height of surface features. This can be shown when a molecule is adsorbed on a surface. The STM image may appear to have either increased or decreased height at that feature, although the geometry alone is certainly an increased height. A detailed analysis of the way in which an image is formed shows that the transmission of the electric current between the tip and the sample depends on two factors: (1) the geometry of the sample and (2) the arrangement of the electrons in the sample. The arrangement of the electrons in the sample is described quantum mechanically by an ""electron density"". The electron density is a function of both position and energy, and is formally described as the local density of electron states, abbreviated as local density of states (LDOS), which is a function of energy.Spectroscopy, in its most general sense, refers to a measurement of the number of something as a function of energy. For scanning tunneling spectroscopy the scanning tunneling microscope is used to measure the number of electrons (the LDOS) as a function of the electron energy. The electron energy is set by the electrical potential difference (voltage) between the sample and the tip. The location is set by the position of the tip.At its simplest, a ""scanning tunneling spectrum"" is obtained by placing a scanning tunneling microscope tip above a particular place on the sample. With the height of the tip fixed, the electron tunneling current is then measured as a function of electron energy by varying the voltage between the tip and the sample (the tip to sample voltage sets the electron energy). The change of the current with the energy of the electrons is the simplest spectrum that can be obtained, it is often referred to as an I-V curve. As is shown below, it is the slope of the I-V curve at each voltage (often called the dI/dV-curve) which is more fundamental because dI/dV corresponds to the electron density of states at the local position of the tip, the LDOS.