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|scanning tunneling microscope |
A microscope used to make images of individual atoms on the surface of a metal. The microscope has a probe with a small voltage applied to it ending in a tiny sharp tip (ideally consisting of one atom) that is moved close the material's surface. Quantum tunneling of electrons between tip and the metal provides a small current, and that current is held constant by varying the distance between the tip and the material's surface atoms. As the probe is moved across the surface, a three-dimension image of the surface is formed, based on the continual adjustments made to the height of the tip to keep the electron flow constant.