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Surfaces, interfaces and thin films are planar structures that occur on the boundary of a material or at the junction between two different media. The physics of these systems is often heavily influenced by their two-dimensional nature.
Picoscale engineering of bonds is a powerful method to tune materials properties. Transcending nanoscience, picoscience offers the ultimate length scale to manipulate materials through subtle bond distortions between individual atoms, as this Review discusses through several examples ranging from perovskites to superconductors and to topological materials.
The properties of complex oxides such as strontium titanate are strongly affected by the presence and distribution of oxygen vacancies. Here, the authors demonstrate that a scanning probe microscope tip can be used to manipulate vacancies by the flexoelectric effect.
Imaging of ferroelectric domain walls and their polarity is achieved through scanning stress microscopy. Twin boundaries are found to allow nanoscale gating of the two-dimensional electron gas at the LaAlO3/SrTiO3 interface.
The first race involving molecular ‘cars’ stimulated technical advances in scanning tunnelling microscopy and provided insights in surface science and synthetic chemistry — it also attracted wide interest from the public.
Solid-state systems capable of simulating the theoretical predictions of condensed matter are in short supply. Demonstrations of electronic Lieb lattices using two different platforms suggest this may be about to change.
Gluing materials together underwater is a mighty challenge faced — and overcome — by mussels. It requires good adhesion and cohesion. Molecular-level mechanical measurements have now shown that cation–π interactions provide surprisingly strong cohesive abilities.
Introduced originally to mimic the unusual, frustrated behaviour of spin ice pyrochlores, artificial spin ice can be realized in odd, dedicated geometries that open the door to new manifestations of a higher level of frustration.