The remarkable electrical and mechanical properties of carbon fibre make these tips more suitable for combined and/or simultaneous STM and AFM than conventional metallic tips. For instance, the high resistance to oxidation means that the carbon fibre tips can be used over several days in air without a significant degradation in their STM operation. Moreover, the extraordinary mechanical properties of carbon fibre allow the tips to be lightweight, rigid and much more robust against accidental tip crashes than metallic tips.

Opening up new possibilities

The development of tips based on novel materials has extended the capabilities of local probe techniques. The ability to chemically modify the tip surface may open up new possibilities to study molecular electronic devices or biofunctionalized surfaces.

Carbon-based tips may also allow the local properties of surfaces to be studied with scanning probe techniques under extremely oxidative environments, measuring electric transport through carbon-based nanostructures and probing mechanical and electrical properties of molecules on surfaces.

The researchers presented their results in the journal Nanotechnology.