Nanoscale thermometry under ambient conditions via scanning thermal microscopy with 3D scanning differential method

L. Sun, W. Wang, P. Jiang and X. Bao

Review of Scientific Instruments 93, 114902 (2022)
Local temperature measurement with high resolution and accuracy is a key challenge in nowadays science and technologies at nanoscale. Quantitative characterization on temperature with sub-100 nm resolution is of significance for understanding the physical mechanisms of phonon transport and energy dissipation in nanoelectronics, optoelectronics, and thermoelectric devices. Scanning thermal microscopy (SThM) has been proved to be a versatile method for nanoscale thermometry. In particular, 2D profiling of the temperature field on the order of 10 nm and 10 mK has already been achieved by SThM with modulation techniques in ultrahigh vacuum to exclude the parasitic heat flow between air and the cantilever. However, few attempts have been made to truly realize 2D profiling of temperature quantitatively under ambient conditions, which is more relevant to realistic applications. Here, a 3D scanning differential method is developed to map the 2D temperature field of an operating nanodevice under ambient environment. Our method suppresses the thermal drift and the parasitic heat flow between air and the cantilever by consecutively measuring the temperatures in thermal contact and nonthermal contact scenarios rather than in a double-scan manner. The local 2D temperature field of a self-heating metal line with current crowding by a narrowing channel is mapped quantitatively by a sectional calibration with a statistic null-point method and a pixel-by-pixel correction with iterative calculation. Furthermore, we propose a figure of merit to evaluate the performance of thermocouple probes on temperature field profiling. The development of nanoscale thermometry under ambient environment would facilitate thermal manipulation on nanomaterials and nanodevices under practical conditions.