Electrostatic discharge (ESD) can easily damage the nanoprobes used in the failure analysis of semiconductor devices. Nanoprobes with tips that have radii of curvature of a few nanometers are especially sensitive to ESD damage, because applying even modest electrical potentials leads to high electrical fields at the tip of the sharp probe. ESD damage has been used as an umbrella explanation to explain a variety of probe failures and undesirable tip features, but due to the stochastic nature of these events, its effect on nanoprobes has hitherto not been well documented. This paper describes the effect that ESD events have on the tip profile of nanoprobes and describes best practices so that such events can be more readily diagnosed and prevented by nanoprobe users. The likelihood of an ESD event occurring can be reduced by eliminating potential differences between users and the probes and by regulating laboratory humidity levels.

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