Review Article

Generation, manipulation and characterization of molecules by atomic force microscopy

  • Nature Reviews Chemistry 1, Article number: 0005 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41570-016-0005
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Abstract

Using atomic manipulation, one can dissociate, form and rearrange bonds, as well as alter the conformation or charge state of molecules. The molecular structures of reactants, intermediates and products are revealed at unprecedented resolution by using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and a suitably functionalized tip. Our present capabilities of manipulation and imaging of molecules by AFM approach the level of control predicted by Richard P. Feynman in his famous lecture ‘There's plenty of room at the bottom’, in which he described how molecules and materials might be formed by attaching and detaching individual atoms at will. In this Review, we discuss recent progress and the future prospects of molecule generation by atom manipulation and molecular characterization by AFM.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank B. Schuler, N. Moll, Z. Majzik, S. Fatayer, G. Meyer, D. Peña and R. Allenspach for discussions. They acknowledge financial support from the European Research Council Consolidator Grant AMSEL (agreement no. 682144), the European Research Council Advanced Grant CEMAS (agreement no. 291194), the European Union project PAMS (agreement no. 610446) and the Initial Training Network QTea (agreement no. 317485).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. IBM Research — Zurich, Säumerstrasse 4, 8803 Rüschlikon, Switzerland.

    • Niko Pavliček
    •  & Leo Gross

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Leo Gross.