The apparent barrier height phi(ap), that is, the rate of change of the logarithm of the conductance with tip-sample separation in a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), has been measured for Ni, Pt, and Au single crystal surfaces. The results show that phi(ap) is constant until point contact is reached rather than decreasing at small tunneling gap distances, as previously reported. The findings for phi(ap) can be accounted for theoretically by including the relaxations of the tip-surface junction in an STM due to the strong adhesive forces at close proximity. These relaxation effects are shown also to be generally relevant under imaging conditions at metal surfaces.
Physical Review Letters, 1996, Vol 76, Issue 9, p. 1485-1488
ADHESION; PACKED METAL-SURFACES; RESISTANCE; POINT CONTACT; ATOMIC-RESOLUTION