The observation of massless Dirac fermions in monolayer graphene has generated a new area of science and technology seeking to harness charge carriers that behave relativistically within solid-state materials1. Both massless and massive Dirac fermions have been studied and proposed in a growing class of Dirac materials that includes bilayer graphene, surface states of topological insulators and iron-based high-temperature superconductors. Because the accessibility of this physics is predicated on the synthesis of new materials, the quest for Dirac quasi-particles has expanded to artificial systems such as lattices comprising ultracold atoms2,3,4. Here we report the emergence of Dirac fermions in a fully tunable condensed-matter system—molecular graphene—assembled by atomic manipulation of carbon monoxide molecules over a conventional two-dimensional electron system at a copper surface5. Using low-temperature scanning tunnelling microscopy and spectroscopy, we embed the symmetries underlying the two-dimensional Dirac equation into electron lattices, and then visualize and shape the resulting ground states. These experiments show the existence within the system of linearly dispersing, massless quasi-particles accompanied by a density of states characteristic of graphene. We then tune the quantum tunnelling between lattice sites locally to adjust the phase accrual of propagating electrons. Spatial texturing of lattice distortions produces atomically sharp p–n and p–n–p junction devices with two-dimensional control of Dirac fermion density and the power to endow Dirac particles with mass6,7,8. Moreover, we apply scalar and vector potentials locally and globally to engender topologically distinct ground states and, ultimately, embedded gauge fields9,10,11,12, wherein Dirac electrons react to ‘pseudo’ electric and magnetic fields present in their reference frame but absent from the laboratory frame. We demonstrate that Landau levels created by these gauge fields can be taken to the relativistic magnetic quantum limit, which has so far been inaccessible in natural graphene. Molecular graphene provides a versatile means of synthesizing exotic topological electronic phases in condensed matter using tailored nanostructures.
Access optionsAccess options
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
This work was supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering, under contract DE-AC02-76SF00515. F.G. acknowledges financial support from MICINN (Spain) through grants FIS2008-00124 and CONSOLIDER CSD2007-00010, and calculations supported by the US National Science Foundation. We thank C.-H. Park, I. Martin, A. Balatsky, T. Wehling, A. Akhmerov, E. Heller and A. Fetter for discussions.
This movie shows the nanoscale assembly sequence of an electronic honeycomb lattice by manipulating individual CO molecules on the Cu(111) two-dimensional electron surface state with the STM tip.
About this article
Physical Review B (2019)