Generation, manipulation and characterization of molecules by atomic force microscopy

Abstract

Using atomic manipulation, one can dissociate, form and rearrange bonds, as well as alter the conformation or charge state of molecules. The molecular structures of reactants, intermediates and products are revealed at unprecedented resolution by using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and a suitably functionalized tip. Our present capabilities of manipulation and imaging of molecules by AFM approach the level of control predicted by Richard P. Feynman in his famous lecture ‘There's plenty of room at the bottom’, in which he described how molecules and materials might be formed by attaching and detaching individual atoms at will. In this Review, we discuss recent progress and the future prospects of molecule generation by atom manipulation and molecular characterization by AFM.

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Figure 1: Non-contact AFM imaging by modulating the resonance frequency of a cantilever.
Figure 2: SPM of naphthalocyanine on bilayer NaCl on Cu(111).
Figure 3: Sample preparation for AFM manipulation and analysis.
Figure 4: High-resolution structure elucidation of natural and synthetic products using AFM.
Figure 5: Tip-mediated charge-transfer enables reversible formation of gold complexes on bilayer NaCl on Cu(111).
Figure 6: Conversion of diiodoarene to a cumulene on bilayer NaCl on Cu(111) triggered by temporary electron attachment.
Figure 7: Atomic manipulation of 9,10-dibromoanthracene (DBA) on bilayer NaCl on Cu(111) leads to fragmentation and ring opening.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank B. Schuler, N. Moll, Z. Majzik, S. Fatayer, G. Meyer, D. Peña and R. Allenspach for discussions. They acknowledge financial support from the European Research Council Consolidator Grant AMSEL (agreement no. 682144), the European Research Council Advanced Grant CEMAS (agreement no. 291194), the European Union project PAMS (agreement no. 610446) and the Initial Training Network QTea (agreement no. 317485).

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Correspondence to Leo Gross.

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Pavliček, N., Gross, L. Generation, manipulation and characterization of molecules by atomic force microscopy. Nat Rev Chem 1, 0005 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41570-016-0005

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