Conductive atomic force microscopy experiments on gate dielectrics in air, nitrogen, and UHV have been compared to evaluate the impact of the environment on topography and electrical measurements. In current images, an increase of the lateral resolution and a reduction of the conductivity were observed in N2 and, especially, in UHV (where current depends also on the contact force). Both effects were related to the reduction/elimination of the water layer between the tip and the sample in N2/UHV. Therefore, since current measurements are very sensitive to environmental conditions, these factors must be taken into consideration when comparisons between several experiments are performed.

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