National Research Council of Canada. National Institute for Nanotechnology
The origin of bond-resolved atomic force microscope images remains controversial. Moreover, most work to date has involved planar, conjugated hydrocarbon molecules on a metal substrate thereby limiting knowledge of the generality of findings made about the imaging mechanism. Here we report the study of a very different sample; a hydrogen-terminated silicon surface. A procedure to obtain a passivated hydrogen-functionalized tip is defined and evolution of atomic force microscopy images at different tip elevations are shown. At relatively large tip-sample distances, the topmost atoms appear as distinct protrusions. However, on decreasing the tip-sample distance, features consistent with the silicon covalent bonds of the surface emerge. Using a density functional tight-binding-based method to simulate atomic force microscopy images, we reproduce the experimental results. The role of the tip flexibility and the nature of bonds and false bond-like features are discussed.