‘Molecular drone’ that carries off atoms points way to speedier atomic control | Research

Iron(III) phthalocyanine chloride can be used as a ‘molecular drone,’ one which lands on a surface, bonds to a single atom and flies off with it – leaving a vacancy in its wake – researchers from Italy have demonstrated. The finding, the team say, may open the door to rapid atomic manipulation and fabrication on a relatively large scale.

The ability to manipulate the positions of individual atoms and, by extension, vacancies has enabled the creation of novel, atomic-scale devices with myriad potential applications. Proof-of-concept devices made to date, for example, include logic patterns, single atom information storage and atomic arrays with potential for use in quantum computing. All of these examples were produced by directly manipulating atoms using the tip of a scanning probe microscope (SPM). While a ground-breaking approach, this method has certain limitations.

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‘Atom manipulation by scanning probe microscope allows absolute spatial control,’ explains…