In real time, innovative experiments track single molecule transport.

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The Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory has contributed to a pioneering experiment published in Science that monitors in real time the transport of single molecules.

To pass a single molecule between two independent probes, a team led by the University of Graz, Austria, used special four-probe scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) to watch it vanish from one point and reappear instantly at the other.

The STM, supplied via the CNMS user software, works under an applied voltage and scans material surfaces with a sharp probe that, by nudging them a few nanometers at a time, can shift atoms and molecules.

This method made it possible to send and receive 150 nanometers of dibromoterfluorene molecules across a silver surface with unparalleled power.

In order to send and receive single molecules across a surface on an atomically accurate track, an international team of researchers used scanning tunneling microscopy at ORNL.

Credit: ORNL/Michelle Lehman, U.S.

Energy Dept.
“The project demonstrates the capabilities of precision instrumentation at the atomic level, opening new frontiers for CNMS users to control molecules or molecular machines,” said An-Ping Li of ORNL.

Donato Civita, Marek Kolmer, Grant J. Simpson, An-Ping Li, Stefan Hecht and Leonhard Grill, 20 November 2020, Science.DOI: 10.1126/science.abd06966 Reference: “Control of long-distance motion of single molecules on a surface”

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