Reliable determination of the surface potential with spatial resolution is key for understanding complex interfaces that range from nanostructured surfaces to molecular systems to biological membranes. In this context, Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) has become the atomic force microscope (AFM) method of choice for mapping the local electrostatic surface potential as it changes laterally due to variations in the surface work function or surface charge distribution. For reliable KPFM measurements, the influence of the tip on the measured electrostatic surface potential has to be understood. We show here that the mean Kelvin voltage can be used for a straightforward characterization of the electrostatic signature of neutral, charged and polar tips, the starting point for quantitative measurements and for tip-charge control for AFM manipulation experiments. This is proven on thin MgO(001) islands supported on Ag(001) and is supported by theoretical modeling, which shows that single ions or dipoles at the tip apex dominate the mean Kelvin voltage.
- tip characterization