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Current-voltage measurement system for investigation of nanocontacts

Maciej Wawrzyniak 

Poznań University of Technology, Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications, Piotrowo 3A, Poznań 60-965, Poland



The break-junction technique is widely used to create nanocontacts, giving a unique possibility to study the electron transport through a single or a few atoms or molecules connecting two macroscopic electrodes [1]. Metallic nanocontacts have attracted interest due to their potential applications in nanoelectronic circuits [2]. In the case of the gold nanocontacts, the quantized conductance behavior is observed even in air at room temperature. Also the breaking process of the nanocontacts is a current research topics [3]. The investigation of the mechanical breaking process of metal nanocontacts shows a very well ordered atomic narrowing for Ni, Fe and V nanocontacts [4]. The knowledge about the fundamental correlations between metastable atomic or molecular configurations is necessary for the designing of next generation electronic building blocks. Recently, a novel cross-correlation techniques was proposed to extract additional information from the conductance traces [5].

Another method for the characterization of metasable atomic configurations in nanocontacts is to determine a current-voltage characteristic. The time of I-V measurements must not go beyond the duration of the atomic configuration. We present a measurement system for capturing electrical signals from which to determine the current-voltage characteristic. Used in the system, a digital storage oscilloscope (DSO) allows a reduction of measurement time to microseconds. The proposed system allows users to select a value of electrical conductance of the breaking nanocontact for which the measurement is carried out, which is a big advantage over measurement systems proposed earlier. Users also can use for forming and breaking nanocontacts two types of actuators: piezoelectric and magnetostrictive. The first one is used for forming a nanocontact between the metal tip and the metal substrate, whereas the second one, for forming a nanocontact between the metal tip and the semiconductor substrate [6]. The short measurement time involves an impact of transition states occurring in the setup circuit, and consequently, a systematic error in the measurements. The right interpretation of the measurement data requires elimination of the systematic error through the application of a suitable correction procedure correction procedure, which the proposed system supports. [7].




1. Agraït N., Yeyati A. L., van Ruitenbeek J. M., Quantum properties of atomic-sized conductors, Physics Reports, 2003, vol. 377, p. 81-279.

2. Cuevas, J. C.; Scheer, E. Molecular Electronics An introduction to Theory and Experiment; World Scientific: Singapore, 2010.

3. Nakazumi T., Wada Y., Kiguchi M., The self-breaking mechanism of atomic scale Au nanocontacts, Nanotechnology, 2012, vol. 23, art. no. 405702.

4. Halbritter A., Makk P., Mackowiak Sz., Csonka Sz., Wawrzyniak M., Martinek J., Regular Atomic Narrowing of Ni, Fe, and V Nanowires Resolved by Two Dimensional Correlation Analysis, Phys. Rev. Lett., 2010, vol. 105, art. no. 266805.

5. Makk P., Tomaszewski D., Martinek J., Balogh Z., Csonka S., Wawrzyniak M., Frei M., Venkataraman L., Halbritter A., Correlation Analysis of Atomic and Single-Molecule Junction Conductance, ACS Nano, 2012, vol. 6, p. 3411-3423.

6. Wawrzyniak M., Maćkowski M., Śniadecki Z., Idzikowski B., Martinek J., Cur-rent-Voltage Characteristics of Nanowires Formed at the Co–Ge99.99Ga0.01 Interface, Acta Physica Polonica A, 2010, vol. 118, p. 375-378.

7. Wawrzyniak M., Probe capacitance-dependent systematic error in I-V measurements of nanowires: analysis and correction, Metrology and Measurement Systems, 2007, vol. 14, p. 391-408.


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Presentation: Poster at Nano and Advanced Materials Workshop and Fair, by Maciej Wawrzyniak
See On-line Journal of Nano and Advanced Materials Workshop and Fair

Submitted: 2013-07-19 15:31
Revised:   2013-07-19 15:49