Phonon-Mediated Electron Transport through CaO Thin Films
Scanning tunneling microscopy has developed into a powerful tool for the characterization of conductive surfaces, for which the overlap of tip and sample wave functions determines the image contrast. On insulating layers, as the CaO thin film grown on Mo(001) investigated here, direct overlap between initial and final states is not enabled anymore and electrons are transported via hopping through the conductionband states of the oxide. Carrier transport is accompanied by strong phonon excitations in this case, imprinting an oscillatory signature on the differential conductance spectra of the system. The phonons show a characteristic spatial dependence and become softer around lattice irregularities in the oxide film, such as dislocation lines.