Direct observation of a long-lived single-atom catalyst chiseling atomic structures in graphene

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Abstract

Fabricating stable functional devices at the atomic scale is an ultimate goal of nanotechnology. In biological processes, such high-precision operations are accomplished by enzymes. A counterpart molecular catalyst that binds to a solid-state substrate would be highly desirable. Here, we report the direct observation of single Si adatoms catalyzing the dissociation of carbon atoms from graphene in an aberration-corrected high-resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM). The single Si atom provides a catalytic wedge for energetic electrons to chisel off the graphene lattice, atom by atom, while the Si atom itself is not consumed. The products of the chiseling process are atomic-scale features including graphene pores and clean edges. Our experimental observations and first-principles calculations demonstrated the dynamics, stability, and selectivity of such a single-atom chisel, which opens up the possibility of fabricating certain stable molecular devices by precise modification of materials at the atomic scale. © 2014 American Chemical Society.

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Wang, W. L., Santos, E. J. G., Jiang, B., Cubuk, E. D., Ophus, C., Centeno, A., … Kaxiras, E. (2014). Direct observation of a long-lived single-atom catalyst chiseling atomic structures in graphene. Nano Letters, 14(2), 450–455. https://doi.org/10.1021/nl403327u

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