Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Manipulation of single atoms provides fundamental insights


It seemed like science-fiction just a few years ago, but is now common practice for scientists at the Paul Drude Institute for Solid State Electronics (PDI) in Berlin. The scientists manipulate single atoms resting on surfaces and assemble them into wires or tiny clusters. In the world of nanometric dimensions, fundamental material properties such as magnetism, electrical conductivity or chemical reactivity differ from the conventional behaviour observed in everyday life. If metal clusters or semiconductor crystals are made just tiny enough, effects often arise which can be only explained by the laws of quantum physics. Recently, a team of scientists at the PDI documented the transition of the quantum world characteristics of atomic structures to the world of macroscopic material properties. They assembled individual copper atoms on a crystalline copper surface and examined the electronic properties of these artificial structures. Jérôme Lagoute, Xi Liu and Stefan Fölsch published their study in the journal Physical Review Letters *.

The scientists assembled atomic clusters one atom high by manipulating one atom after another and found that, depending on the number of atoms, characteristic quantum states are formed which eventually merge into a widely known surface property, the Shockley surface state. This state can be described as an electron gas located at the surface. "The two-dimensional surface state is text book physics", says Stefan Fölsch, "but we found something new.” For the first time, Lagoute and colleagues revealed the physical linkage between quantum states in atomic-scale structures and the traditional properties of extended surfaces. The researchers conclude that their findings apply not only to copper but to other materials as well.

To manipulate the atoms and to analyze the assembled structures, the scientists used a home-built low temperature scanning tunneling microscope. “At present, few research groups world-wide are able to conduct atom manipulation experiments on this level”, says Fölsch. However, the method will not directly lead to new products or applications in the near future.“Our experiments are performed under very well-defined conditions at low temperature and on ultra-clean surfaces." Nevertheless, studies of suchlike perfect model systems yield fundamental insight which is essential for future developments in nanoscience and technology. “For instance, if you assemble a quantum wire atom by atom”, says Fölsch, “you’d like to know about the detailed electronic characteristics and the electron dynamics associated with this one-dimensional object." The present experiment by the PDI scientists provides an instructive approach to exploring how electronic properties evolve when building artificial structures atom by atom. A detailed understanding of such a scenario is an essential step towards the ultimate goal of “tailoring” magnetic and electronic material properties by controlling size, geometry, and composition at the atomic level.

Josef Zens | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>