Measuring material softening with nanoscale spatial resolution using heated silicon probes

B. A. Nelson, W. P. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


This article describes the use of heated silicon atomic force microscopy probes to perform local thermal analysis (LTA) of a thin film of polystyrene. The experiments measure film softening behavior with 100 nm spatial resolution, whereas previous research on LTA used probes that had a resolution near 10 μm, which was too large to investigate some types of features. This article demonstrates four methods by which heated silicon probes can perform thermal analysis with nanoscale spatial resolution. The polystyrene softening temperature measured from nanoscale LTA techniques is 120 °C, compared to 100 °C, measured with bulk ellipsometry. The discrepancy is attributed to the thermal contact resistance at the end of the silicon probe tip, on the order of 107 KW, which modulates heat flow between the tip and sample and governs the fundamental limits of this technique. The use of a silicon probe for LTA enables bulk fabrication, parallelization for high-throughput analysis, and fabrication of a sharp tip capable of nanoscale spatial resolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number023702
JournalReview of Scientific Instruments
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation


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