Scientists Assemble Single Atoms Into Predefined Nanostructures

Scientists at the Paul Drude Institute for Solid State Electronics in Berlin, Germany, have assembled single atoms of different elements, thus forming nanostructures of predefined size and composition.

Three-dimensional representation showing the topography of a nine-atomic chain comprised of three Co and six Cu atoms assembled and imaged in a low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope. Both ends and the center of the chain are occupied by a single Co atom each. The interatomic spacing within the binary chain is 2.55 Angstroem. (Credit: Image courtesy of Forschungsverbund Berlin)

The team lead by Stefan Foelsch used copper (Cu) and cobalt (Co) atoms to produce pairs or various chains of atoms on a substrate surface made of crystalline copper.

"We manipulated the atoms in a low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope", says Stefan Foelsch. He adds: "We found that the quantum effects in these structures can be understood within the framework of textbook physics describing the electronic properties of simple molecules." Thus, it is possible to taylor “artificial molecules” supported by a solid surface made of magnetic and non-magnetic elements.

The nanostructures engineered and characterized constitute a promising model for future investigations in order to gain insight into the magnetism of the smallest structures. Stefan Foelsch says that this is an issue of utmost technological relevance.

The scientists report on their work in Physical Review Letters (J. Lagoute et al.: "Doping of monatomic Cu chains with single Co atoms", published online on April 6).

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Forschungsverbund Berlin.

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