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19 January 2006 How reliable are scanning tunneling microscopy measurements of electron transport in molecules?
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Scanning tunneling microscopy measurements of tunneling through molecules adsorbed on a surface have been simulated using a standard empirical model based upon the Wentzel-Kramer-Brillouin method applied to tunneling through a barrier. The Gaussian noise inherent in these experiments has been added to the model data using a Monte Carlo technique. By generating multiple sets of current-voltage curves and fitting these to the model we have evaluated how reliably barrier height can be determined as a function of noise level. The results suggest that for constant percentage standard deviation in the noise greater than 5% the barrier height cannot be determined reliably. At this level, the standard deviation in the estimate of the barrier height is about 10%. Weighted fits give more reliable estimates of the barrier height. If the height of the tip above the molecule is known, so that the fit is only a single parameter the barrier height can be determined reliably even at percentage noise levels as high as 20%. However, in this case unweighted fits must be used otherwise the estimated value deviates by up to 15% from the true value. Data with constant absolute noise give similar results. The effects of experimental resolution have been evaluated in a similar manner and are shown to have a significant influence on the reliability. At a resolution of about 0.1% of full scale the standard deviation in the estimate of barrier height is only about 2% but increases rapidly to 10% for a resolution of about 1%.
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Michael J. Ford, Les Kirkup, Angus Gentle, Hadi Zareie, and Michael Cortie "How reliable are scanning tunneling microscopy measurements of electron transport in molecules?", Proc. SPIE 6036, BioMEMS and Nanotechnology II, 603604 (19 January 2006);

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