Electron beam moves single atoms

Editorial

Rebecca Pool

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 - 12:15
Image: STEM precisely moves silicon atoms over extended paths. [Toma Susi / University of Vienna]
 
Researchers from the University of Vienna have used a Nion UltraSTEM100 to move single silicon atoms in graphene with atomic precision. 
 
Pioneering STEM experiments, using an atomically-focused electron beam, have seen researchers moving silicon atoms over a handful of sites within a graphene lattice.
 
But now, Professor Toma Susi and colleagues have achieved a much greater degree of control, precisely moving silicon impurities within graphene along an extended path as well as circulating a hexagon.
 
What's more, the researchers could move atoms back and forth between two graphene sublattices, analogous to flicking a switch and holding potential for high density data storage.
 
"The control we are able to achieve by essentially directing the electron beam by hand is already remarkable, but we have further taken the first steps towards automation by detecting the jumps in real time," highlight Susi.
 
"Your computer or cellphone will not have atomic memories anytime soon, but graphene impurity atoms do seem to have potential as bits near the limits of what is physically possible," he adds.
 
Research is published in Nanoletters.
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