Next generation of multifunctional scanning probes
Moon, Jong Seok
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The goal of this thesis was the advanced design, fabrication, and application of combined atomic force microscopy - scanning electrochemical microscopy (AFMSECM) probes for high-resolution topographical and electrochemical imaging. The first part of the thesis describes innovative approaches for the optimization of AFM-SECM probe fabrication with recessed frame electrodes. For this purpose, commercial silicon nitride AFM cantilevers were modified using optimized critical fabrication processes including improved metallization for the deposition of the electrode layer, and novel insulation strategies for ensuring localized electrochemical signals. As a novel approach for the insulation of AFM-SECM probes, sandwiched layers of PECVD SixNy and SiO2, and plasma-deposited PFE films were applied and tested. Using sandwiched PECVD SixNy and SiO2 layers, AFM-SECM probes providing straight (unbent) cantilevers along with excellent insulation characteristics facilitating the functionality of the integrated electrode were reproducibly obtained. Alternatively, PFE thin films were tested according to their utility for serving as a mechanically flexible insulating layer for AFM-SECM probes. The electrochemical characterization of PFEinsulated AFM-SECM probes revealed excellent insulating properties at an insulation thickness of only approx. 400 nm. Finally, AFM-SECM cantilevers prepared via both insulation strategies were successfully tested during AFM-SECM imaging experiments. In the second part of this thesis, disk-shaped nanoelectrodes were for the first time integrated into AFM probes for enabling high-resolution AFM-SECM measurements. Disk electrodes with an electrode radius < 100 nm were realized, which provides a significantly improved lateral resolution for SECM experiments performed in synchronicity with AFM imaging. Furthermore, the developed fabrication scheme enables producing AFM-SECM probes with integrated disk nanoelectrodes at significantly reduced time and cost based on a highly reproducible semi-batch fabrication process providing bifunctional probes at a wafer scale. The development of a detailed processing strategy was accompanied by extensive simulation results for developing a fundamental understanding on the electrochemical properties of AFM-SECM probes with nanoscale electrodes, and for optimizing the associated processing parameters. Thus fabricated probes were electrochemically characterized, and their performance was demonstrated via bifunctional imaging at model samples. The third part of this thesis describes the development and characterization of the first AFM tip-integrated potentiometric sensors based on solid-state electrodes with submicrometer dimensions enabling laterally resolved pH imaging. Antimony and iridium oxides were applied as the pH sensitive electrode material, and have been integrated into the AFM probes via conventional microfabrication strategies. The pH response of such AFM tip-integrated integrated pH microsensors was tested for both material systems, and first studies were performed demonstrating localized pH measurements at a model system.