A comprehensive analysis of the electrical current passing through the tip-substrate junction during oxidation of silicon by scanning probe microscopy (SPM) is presented. This analysis of experimental results under dc-bias conditions resolves the role of electronic and ionic contributions, especially for the initial stages of the reaction, determines the effective contact area of the tip-substrate junction, and unifies the roles of space charge and meniscus formation. In Part I of this work, we demonstrate that SPM oxidation is governed by a maximum charge density generated by electronic species within the junction at the onset of the oxidation process. Excess charge is channeled into lateral diffusion, keeping the charge density within the reaction zone constant and reducing the aspect ratio of the resulting oxide features. A uniform charge density implies that SPM oxides contain a fixed defect concentration, in accordance with the space-charge model. The effective (electrical) thickness of SPM oxides determined by these defects is investigated by Fowler-Nordheim analysis. We conclude that most of the electrical current involved in high voltage SPM oxidation of Si does not actually induce surface oxide growth, and that lateral diffusion and small aspect ratios are unavoidable aspects of contact-mode conditions.
Citation: Journal of Applied Physics
Issue: No. 4
Pub Type: Journals
Fowler-Nordheim tunneling, nanolithography, scanning probe oxidation, silicon