Single-Chip Scanning Probe Microscopes
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Scanning probe microscopes (SPMs) are the highest resolution imaging instruments available today and are among the most important tools in nanoscience. Conventional SPMs suffer from several drawbacks owing to their large and bulky construction and to the use of piezoelectric materials. Large scanners have low resonant frequencies that limit their achievable imaging bandwidth and render them susceptible to disturbance from ambient vibrations. Array approaches have been used to alleviate the bandwidth bottleneck; however as arrays are scaled upwards, the scanning speed must decline to accommodate larger payloads. In addition, the long mechanical path from the tip to the sample contributes thermal drift. Furthermore, intrinsic properties of piezoelectric materials result in creep and hysteresis, which contribute to image distortion. The tip-sample interaction signals are often measured with optical configurations that require large free-space paths, are cumbersome to align, and add to the high cost of state-of-the-art SPM systems. These shortcomings have stifled the widespread adoption of SPMs by the nanometrology community. Tiny, inexpensive, fast, stable and independent SPMs that do not incur bandwidth penalties upon array scaling would therefore be most welcome. The present research demonstrates, for the first time, that all of the mechanical and electrical components that are required for the SPM to capture an image can be scaled and integrated onto a single CMOS chip. Principles of microsystem design are applied to produce single-chip instruments that acquire images of underlying samples on their own, without the need for off-chip scanners or sensors. Furthermore, it is shown that the instruments enjoy a multitude of performance benefits that stem from CMOS-MEMS integration and volumetric scaling of scanners by a factor of 1 million. This dissertation details the design, fabrication and imaging results of the first single-chip contact-mode AFMs, with integrated piezoresistive strain sensing cantilevers and scanning in three degrees-of-freedom (DOFs). Static AFMs and quasi-static AFMs are both reported. This work also includes the development, fabrication and imaging results of the first single-chip dynamic AFMs, with integrated flexural resonant cantilevers and 3 DOF scanning. Single-chip Amplitude Modulation AFMs (AM-AFMs) and Frequency Modulation AFMs (FM-AFMs) are both shown to be capable of imaging samples without the need for any off-chip sensors or actuators. A method to increase the quality factor (Q-factor) of flexural resonators is introduced. The method relies on an internal energy pumping mechanism that is based on the interplay between electrical, mechanical, and thermal effects. To the best of the author’s knowledge, the devices that are designed to harness these effects possess the highest electromechanical Qs reported for flexural resonators operating in air; electrically measured Q is enhanced from ~50 to ~50,000 in one exemplary device. A physical explanation for the underlying mechanism is proposed. The design, fabrication, imaging, and tip-based lithographic patterning with the first single-chip Scanning Thermal Microscopes (SThMs) are also presented. In addition to 3 DOF scanning, these devices possess integrated, thermally isolated temperature sensors to detect heat transfer in the tip-sample region. Imaging is reported with thermocouple-based devices and patterning is reported with resistive heater/sensors. An “isothermal electrothermal scanner” is designed and fabricated, and a method to operate it is detailed. The mechanism, based on electrothermal actuation, maintains a constant temperature in a central location while positioning a payload over a range of >35μm, thereby suppressing the deleterious thermal crosstalk effects that have thus far plagued thermally actuated devices with integrated sensors. In the thesis, models are developed to guide the design of single-chip SPMs and to provide an interpretation of experimental results. The modelling efforts include lumped element model development for each component of single-chip SPMs in the electrical, thermal and mechanical domains. In addition, noise models are developed for various components of the instruments, including temperature-based position sensors, piezoresistive cantilevers, and digitally controlled positioning devices.