Editor's Summary

1 March 2007

Name that atom


Dynamic force microscopy, which works by detecting the interaction force between the oscillating tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) and a surface, has been refined to the extent that it can achieve true atomic resolution of insulator, semiconductor and metal surfaces. In a landmark publication in this issue this technique has been used to perform the chemical identification of individual atoms in a multi-element system. The method involves precise quantification of short-range chemical forces between the probed atoms and the AFM tip, and provides a robust and general recognition tool suitable for both cryogenic and room temperature environments. The cover shows a topographic image of a surface alloy made up of silicon (red), tin (blue), and lead atoms (green) in equal proportions on a silicon (111) substrate. This atomic identification method is relevant to a wide range of research areas such as catalysis, materials science and semiconductor technology.

News and ViewsMicroscopy: Atomic fingerprinting

Atomic force microscopy is a well-established technique to image all kinds of surfaces at the atomic scale. But the force patterns that emerge can also pin down the chemical identity of individual atoms.

Alexander Shluger & Tom Trevethan

doi:10.1038/446034b

LetterChemical identification of individual surface atoms by atomic force microscopy

Yoshiaki Sugimoto, Pablo Pou, Masayuki Abe, Pavel Jelinek, Rubén Pérez, Seizo Morita & Óscar Custance

doi:10.1038/nature05530