We have developed a novel method for in-situ measurements of the true work function (ø) of metal surfaces by combined ultra-high vacuum compatible Kelvin Probe and photoelectric effect measurements. The work function is an extremely sensitive parameter of surface condition and can be used to study oxidation and thin film growth on metal surfaces. For example, the increase in ø due to oxidation of polycrystalline rhenium is 1.9eV.
The Kelvin Probe measures local work function differences between a conducting sample and a reference tip in a non-contact, truly non-invasive way over a wide temperature range. However, it is an inherently relative technique and does not provide an absolute work function if the work function of the tip (øtip) is unknown.
We present a novel approach to measure øtip with the Kelvin Probe via the photoelectric effect, using a Gd foil as the photoelectron source, hereby combining the advantages of both methods to provide the absolute work function of the sample surface. We demonstrate the application of the technique by in-situ work function measurements during oxidation of polycrystalline rhenium. The extended Kelvin Probe method therefore has potential applications as a characterisation tool for thin film epitaxy and work function engineering of surfaces.