Observation of a two-dimensional electron gas at the surface of annealed SrTiO3 single crystals by scanning tunneling spectroscopy
An extensive surface characterization of hydrofluoric acid (HF) etched and annealed SrTiO3 single crystals, vacuum-annealed below 300 degrees C, reveals the formation of a two-dimensional electron gas (2DEG). A joint scanning tunneling spectroscopy and low-energy electron diffraction analysis allows us to associate the surface metallic state (characterized by the presence of a nonzero density of states close to the Fermi level) with the low-temperature-annealed highly ordered 1 x 1 reconstructed SrTiO3 surface hosting two-dimensional carriers. Meanwhile, a gap opens in the tunneling spectrum of 2 x 1 reconstructed, high-temperature-annealed surfaces. X-ray photoemission spectroscopy shows that the metallic state is associated with the surface formation of Ti3+. Recently published photoemission data demonstrated the formation of a 2DEG on the surface of cleaved SrTiO3, while scanning tunneling spectroscopy on crystals heated at high temperature revealed gaplike features: Our results can help reconcile this seemingly contradicting phenomenology observed so far by scanning tunneling spectroscopy and photoemission spectroscopy.