Nanoscale resolution scanning thermal microscopy with thermally conductive nanowire probes

Scanning thermal microscopy (SThM) – a type of scanning probe microscopy that allows mapping thermal transport and temperatures in nanoscale devices, is becoming a key approach that may help to resolve heat dissipation problems in modern processors and develop new thermoelectric materials. Unfortunately, performance of current SThM implementations in measurement of high thermal conductivity materials continues to me limited. The reason for these limitations is two-fold – first, SThM measurements of high thermal conductivity materials need adequate high thermal conductivity of the probe apex, and secondly, the quality of thermal contact between the probe and the sample becomes strongly affected by the nanoscale surface corrugations of the studied sample. In this paper we develop analytical models of the SThM approach that can tackle these complex problems – by exploring high thermal conductivity nanowires as a tip apex, and exploring contact resistance between the SThM probe and studied surface, the latter becoming particularly important when both tip and surface have high thermal conductivities. We develop analytical model supported by the finite element analysis simulations and by the experimental tests of SThM prototype using carbon nanotube (CNT) at the tip apex as a heat conducting nanowire. These results elucidate vital relationships between the performance of the probe in SThM from one side and thermal conductivity, geometry of the probe and its components from the other, providing pathway for overcoming current limitations of SThM.

Timofeeva, M., Bolshakov, A., Tovee, P. D., Zeze, D. A., Dubrovskii, V. G., & Kolosov, O. V. (2013). Nanoscale resolution scanning thermal microscopy with thermally conductive nanowire probes. arXiv preprint arXiv:1309.2010.

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