The tunnel microscope probes the electrons of a material by quantum tunneling effect.

As a consequence of the migration of electrons, is the tunnel microscope "destroying" a bit the material, by removing electrons ?


All microscopes damage the material in some way.

Most of the damage is associated with setting up the specimen. e.g. some methods require the specimen to be in vacuum, and even light microscopes require it to be held still which is hard to do non-invasively. Tunnel microscopes require electric fields which may damage some samples. Compared to these sorts of issues, I think the tiny currents involved in the tunnel effect itself have little effect on most samples, but of course there will be exceptions.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. Do you agree that due to the tunneling, in an infinite time, all electrons of the material would have been catched, thus the material will be only made of ions (thus, it would destroy further by electrostatic repulsion ?) $\endgroup$ Mar 17 at 17:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MathieuKrisztian no; it is an ordinary current flowing in a circuit; the electrons are continually replaced from the ground or equivalent. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ SteaneAndrew : which current do you mean : the current from the electrons that are catched by the tunneling microscope ? Why new electrons are coming in the material : I thought the microscope only "grabs" the electrons, but do not "provide new" ones ? $\endgroup$ Mar 17 at 17:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ yes the ones gathered by the tip of the microscope; they are immediately replaced by others flowing into the sample from elsewhere. Otherwise the sample would charge up and the current would stop flowing. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the help. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 at 18:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.