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STM-mediated surface degradation on 1T-TaS2

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Vey, K., Goschke, R. A., Buslaps, T., Walter, U., & Steglich, F. (1994). STM-mediated surface degradation on 1T-TaS2. Surface Science, 311(1-2), 53-63. doi:10.1016/0039-6028(94)90480-4.

Investigating 1T-TaS2 with an STM we found that its bulk hexagonal lattice bears the inherent tendency to a slow and irregular degradation of the surface. The onset of this degradation is triggered by any electrical current above a minimum density. This current may be due to the STM scanning process itself, but degradation can also be achieved by a current generated by a gross voltage applied externally across the sample. Scan holes, which were observed in accordance with earlier reports, display geometric rather than irregular structures, and their growth is considerably accelerated with constant-height scans. Most probably they are formed via abrasion with the tip, which primarily removes surface atoms at sites with lattice defects or surface steps. Local thermal-heating, electrical-field and/or gradient effects do not play any significant role in these degradation processes. The ease by which the surface atoms are manipulated indicates that the phenomenon of scan holes also seems to be intimately linked to the metastability of the 1T-TaS2 surface lattice.