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Surface electronic properties probed with tunnelling microscopy and chemical doping


Scanning tunnelling microscopy1–3 (STM) can provide atomic-resolution images of surfaces in vacuum4,5, air6 and liquids7,8. One of the most appealing aspects of such images is that they appear to reflect surface structure directly; these tunnelling images, however, contain contributions from both the structural and the electronic properties of a surface1–5. Although an understanding of these properties is essential to an understanding of the fundamental nature and reactivity of surfaces, few methods5 are available to separate them, especially in air and in liquids. Here we report a new approach to this problem that combines chemical modifications with tunnelling microscopy. Samples of the layered material tantalum disulphide (TaS2) have been substitutionally doped with titanium to prepare materials of the general form TixTa1–xS2. STM images of native TaS2 are dominated by a charge density wave state9–11. Using titanium doping, we have been able to perturb this unusual electronic feature systematically so that the surface structure can be imaged clearly. Such studies of chemically modified materials (prepared, for example by doping or intercalation) should lead to a better understanding of the features contained in STM images.

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Wu, XL., Zhou, P. & Lieber, C. Surface electronic properties probed with tunnelling microscopy and chemical doping. Nature 335, 55–57 (1988).

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