Significant progress has been made both in experimentation and in theoretical modeling of scanning probe microscopy. The theoretical models used to analyze and interpret experimental scanning probe microscope (SPM) images and spectroscopic data now provide information not only about the surface, but also the probe tip and physical changes occurring during the scanning process. The aim of this review is to discuss and compare the present status of computational modeling of two of the most popular SPM methods—scanning tunneling microscopy and scanning force microscopy—in conjunction with their applications to studies of surface structure and properties with atomic resolution. In the context of these atomic-scale applications, for the scanning force microscope (SFM), this review focuses primarily on recent noncontact SFM (NC-SFM) results. After a brief introduction to the experimental techniques and the main factors determining image formation, the authors consider the theoretical models developed for the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and the SFM. Both techniques are treated from the same general perspective of a sharp tip interacting with the surface—the only difference being that the control parameter in the STM is the tunneling current and in the SFM it is the force. The existing methods for calculating STM and SFM images are described and illustrated using numerous examples, primarily from the authors’ own simulations, but also from the literature. Theoretical and practical aspects of the techniques applied in STM and SFM modeling are compared. Finally, the authors discuss modeling as it relates to SPM applications in studying surface properties, such as adsorption, point defects, spin manipulation, and phonon excitation.
- Atomic Resolution