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  • scanning tunneling microscope (STM)

A high-resolution imaging instrument that can detect and measure the positions of individual atoms on the surface of a material. A very fine conductive probe is placed at a distance of 10 to 20 Å above the surface of a conductive sample, and a bias voltage is applied between probe and surface during scanning, creating overlapping electron clouds and electrons that tunnel between the potential barrier between the probe and the sample. The probe tip is maintained at a constant distance from the sample by a piezoelectric transducer, yielding a three-dimensional topographical image.
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