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Lateral Manipulation of Atomic Vacancies in Ultrathin Insulating Films

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journal contribution
posted on 26.05.2015, 00:00 by Zhe Li, Hsin-Yi Tiffany Chen, Koen Schouteden, Koen Lauwaet, Ewald Janssens, Chris Van Haesendonck, Gianfranco Pacchioni, Peter Lievens
During the last 20 years, using scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and atomic force microscopy, scientists have successfully achieved vertical and lateral repositioning of individual atoms on and in different types of surfaces. Such atom manipulation allows the bottom-up assembly of novel nanostructures that can otherwise not be fabricated. It is therefore surprising that controlled repositioning of virtual atoms, i.e., atomic vacancies, across atomic lattices has not yet been achieved experimentally. Here we use STM at liquid helium temperature (4.5 K) to create individual Cl vacancies and subsequently to laterally manipulate them across the surface of ultrathin sodium chloride films. This allows monitoring the interactions between two neighboring vacancies with different separations. Our findings are corroborated by density functional theory calculations and STM image simulations. The lateral manipulation of atomic vacancies opens up a new playground for the investigation of fundamental physical properties of vacancy nanostructures of any size and shape and their coupling with the supporting substrate, and of the interaction of various deposits with charged vacancies.