Current distribution in the scanning vacuum tunnel microscope: A free-electron model

E. Stoll, A. Baratoff, Annabella Selloni, P. Carnevali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Insight into the resolution of the recently developed technique of scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) is achieved by considering the transmission of free electrons through a constant potential barrier with corrugated boundaries representing the sampled surface and probing tip, respectively. The amplitudes of the reflected and transmitted waves are calculated via an extension of the so-called GR-method developed to treat scattering from a corrugated hard wall. Results for the distribution of current density, for the dependence of the tunnelling current on the horizontal and vertical positions of the scanning tip and for the resulting equicurrent lines (STM images) are presented for a two-dimensional model. Simple analytical approximations are shown to reproduce computed trends versus tip-sample separation, tip curvature and average barrier height.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number016
Pages (from-to)3073-3086
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of physics C: Solid State Physics
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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