Decoration of surfaces with size-selected clusters and molecular manipulation at room temperature: precision and uncertainty in organizing atoms

R. E. Palmer, P. A. Sloan, C. Xirouchaki

Abstract

The deposition onto surfaces of clusters of atoms, prepared and size–selected in the gas phase, is, like atomic or molecular manipulation with the scanning tunnelling microscope, an appealing (but parallel) route to the creation of nanoscale surface features. Both of these seemingly orthogonal approaches allow, in principle, a selected number of atoms to be organized, and both are strongly affected by the lateral thermal diffusion of the constituent atoms, molecules or clusters over the surface. In this sense, the room–temperature (as opposed to cryogenic–temperature) regime can be regarded as a hostile environment for organizing atoms. In this paper we review recent achievements in size–selected cluster deposition and molecular manipulation at room temperature and thus address the fundamental question: with what precision can we organize atoms at room temperature?

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