Understanding scanning tunneling microscopy contrast mechanisms on metal oxides: a case study
American Chemical Society
10233 - 10244
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A comprehensive analysis of contrast formation mechanisms in scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) experiments on a metal oxide surface is presented with the oxygen-induced (2√2×√2)R45 missing row reconstruction of the Cu(100) surface as a model system. Density functional theory and electronic transport calculations were combined to simulate the STM imaging behavior of pure and oxygen-contaminated metal tips with structurally and chemically different apexes while systematically varying bias voltage and tip-sample distance. The resulting multiparameter database of computed images was used to conduct an extensive comparison with experimental data. Excellent agreement was attained for a large number of cases, suggesting that the assumed model tips reproduce most of the commonly encountered contrast-determining effects. Specifically, we find that depending on the bias voltage polarity, copper-terminated tips allow selective imaging of two structurally distinct surface Cu sites, while oxygen-terminated tips show complex contrasts with pronounced asymmetry and tip-sample distance dependence. Considering the structural and chemical stability of the tips reveals that the copper-terminated apexes tend to react with surface oxygen at small tip-sample distances. In contrast, oxygen-terminated tips are considerably more stable, allowing exclusive surface oxygen imaging at small tip-sample distances. Our results provide a conclusive understanding of fundamental STM imaging mechanisms, thereby providing guidelines for experimentalists to achieve chemically selective imaging by properly selecting imaging parameters. © 2013 American Chemical Society.