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The nanometer‐scale oxidation of Si(100) surfaces in air is performed with an atomic force microscope working in tapping mode. Applying a positive voltage to the sample with respect to the tip, two kinds of modifications are induced on the sample: grown silicon oxide mounds less than 5 nm high and mounds higher than 10 nm (which are assumed to be gold depositions). The threshold voltage necessary to produce the modification is studied as a function of the average tip‐to‐sample distance. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.