Atom inlays performed at room temperature using atomic force microscopy

Nat Mater. 2005 Feb;4(2):156-9. doi: 10.1038/nmat1297. Epub 2005 Jan 16.


The ability to manipulate single atoms and molecules laterally for creating artificial structures on surfaces is driving us closer to the ultimate limit of two-dimensional nanoengineering. However, experiments involving this level of manipulation have been performed only at cryogenic temperatures. Scanning tunnelling microscopy has proved, so far, to be a unique tool with all the necessary capabilities for laterally pushing, pulling or sliding single atoms and molecules, and arranging them on a surface at will. Here we demonstrate, for the first time, that it is possible to perform well-controlled lateral manipulations of single atoms using near-contact atomic force microscopy even at room temperature. We report the creation of 'atom inlays', that is, artificial atomic patterns formed from a few embedded atoms in the plane of a surface. At room temperature, such atomic structures remain stable on the surface for relatively long periods of time.