Materials science

Nanoscale control of chain polymerization


Polymer industries depend on the spontaneous polymerization of molecules into chains in response to an appropriate trigger. We have succeeded in inducing and guiding chain polymerization over tiny distances, initiating and terminating linear propagation at any chosen point to a spatial precision of about 1 nm by using the probe tip of a scanning tunnelling microscope. Being able to exert such fine control over nanoscale fabrication and interconnection should help to take molecular nanoelectronics beyond the present silicon-based-device technology.

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Figure 1: Scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) images and diagrams showing the process of controlling the initiation and termination of linear chain polymerization with an STM tip.


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Correspondence to Yuji Okawa.

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Okawa, Y., Aono, M. Nanoscale control of chain polymerization. Nature 409, 683–684 (2001).

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