Atom transfer and single-adatom contacts

Phys Rev Lett. 2005 Apr 1;94(12):126102. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.94.126102. Epub 2005 Apr 1.


The point contact of a tunnel tip approaching towards Ag(111) and Cu(111) surfaces is investigated with a low temperature scanning tunneling microscope. A sharp jump to contact, random in nature, is observed in the conductance. After point contact, the tip-apex atom is transferred to the surface, indicating that a one-atom contact is formed during the approach. In sharp contrast, the conductance over single silver and copper adatoms exhibits a smooth and reproducible transition from tunneling to contact regime. Numerical simulations show that this is a consequence of the additional dipolar bonding between the adatom and the surface atoms.