Extending the capability of STM break junction for conductance measurement of atomic-size nanowires: an electrochemical strategy

J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Oct 8;130(40):13228-30. doi: 10.1021/ja8055276. Epub 2008 Sep 13.


The STM break junction (STM-BJ) and mechanically controllable break junction (MCBJ) are the two most widely applied techniques to fabricate atomic-size nanowires for conductance measurement. However, the drawbacks of the mechanical crashing between the two electrodes of the same material in these techniques hamper its capability of application in view of the variety of metals as well as the environment to perform the measurements. In this paper, we present an electrochemical strategy for STM-BJ by establishing a chemically well-defined metallic contact through a jump-to-contact mechanism between the tip and substrate of dissimilar metals, wherein the tip is in situ and electrochemically deposited with a thin film of a foreign metal of interest. The feasibility of the approach is demonstrated by taking Cu as a model system, followed by generalizing to Pd and Fe for which the conductance has been found otherwise difficult to measure at room temperature. The preferential point-contact conductance at 1, 0.9, and 0.86 G0 was measured for Cu, Pd, and Fe, respectively. The strategy present in this work not only extends the capability of STM-BJ to create a variety of metal nanowires including magnetic nanowires for further investigations but also provides opportunities to construct metal-molecule-metal junctions with a variety of choices of metals in the junctions.