The ability to manipulate single atoms and molecules laterally for creating artificial structures on surfaces1 is driving us closer to the ultimate limit of two-dimensional nanoengineering2,3. However, experiments involving this level of manipulation have been performed only at cryogenic temperatures. Scanning tunnelling microscopy has proved, so far, to be a unique tool with all the necessary capabilities for laterally pushing, pulling or sliding4 single atoms and molecules, and arranging them on a surface at will. Here we demonstrate, for the first time, that it is possible to perform well-controlled lateral manipulations of single atoms using near-contact atomic force microscopy5,6,7 even at room temperature. We report the creation of 'atom inlays', that is, artificial atomic patterns formed from a few embedded atoms in the plane of a surface. At room temperature, such atomic structures remain stable on the surface for relatively long periods of time.
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We thank Rubén Peréz for the careful revision of the manuscript. This material is based on work supported by the Handai Frontier Research Center, by the Active Nano-Characterization and Technology Project, and by a Grant in Aid for Science Research from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Sugimoto, Y., Abe, M., Hirayama, S. et al. Atom inlays performed at room temperature using atomic force microscopy. Nature Mater 4, 156–159 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat1297
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