Quantum Atom Particle Physics Concept

For the first time: Scientists formed a charged rare earth molecule on a metal surface and spun it

Quantum atom particle physics concept

Breakthrough opens up new possibilities for research into atomic-scale manipulation of materials important for the future

For the first time, scientists have formed a charged rare-earth molecule on a metal surface and rotated it using scanning tunneling microscopy.

Scientists from Ohio University, Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Chicago have used scanning tunneling microscopy to form a charged rare earth molecule on a metal surface and make it rotate clockwise and counterclockwise without affecting its load.

Their findings open up new avenues of research into atomic-scale manipulation of materials important for the future, ranging from

quantum computing
Perform calculations using quantum mechanical phenomena such as superposition and entanglement.

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“Rare earth elements are vital for high-technological applications including cell phones, HDTVs, and more. This is the first-time formation of rare-earth complexes with positive and negative charges on a metal surface and also the first-time demonstration of atomic-level control over their rotation,” said team lead Saw-Wai Hla, who has dual appointments as a scientist at Argonne and professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio University.

The experiment was carried out at both Argonne and Ohio University, utilizing two different low-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) systems. The environment for STM experiments requires a temperature of about 5 degrees K (-450 degrees Rare Earth Rotor

Rare-Earth Rotor. (a) STM image of a rotating Eu complex appears as a disc shape on Au(111). (b) Controlled rotations are performed by supplying electrical energy from an STM tip. (c), (d) Before and after rotation of a complex, respectively. The dashed circle indicates the counterion used for the control. Credit: Saw Wai Hla

“The same results were achieved in both locations, which ensures reproducibility,” Hla said. The Ohio lab is operated by students of the Hla group associated with the Nanoscale & Quantum Phenomena Institute.

The scientists’ research was recently published in the journal

This film reveals different energy positions and the shapes of the unoccupied orbitals of [Eu(pcam)3X]2+ and [Eu(pcam)3]3+. It is created from 8000 dI/dV spectroscopic maps acquired on a pair of [Eu(pcam)3X]2+ – [Eu(pcam)3]3+ complexes at ±2000 mV with a 1 mV gap between consecutive frames. This movie shows the controlled clockwise rotation of a [Eu(pcam)3X2]+ complex on the Au(111) surface when a negative electric field is applied from the STM tip.

Eric Masson, Professor and Roenigk Chair of Chemistry at Ohio University and one of the project’s co-investigators designed the rare earth complexes, and his group at Ohio University synthesized them. The density functional theory calculations were performed by Argonne scientists and the group of Anh Ngo, an associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, using BEBOP from Argonne, the most powerful supercomputer in the United States to date. The calculations reveal only a negligible amount of charge transfer at the molecule-substrate interface, meaning that the complexes remained charged at the surface.

The chemical state of the Eu ion in complexes adsorbed to the surface is determined by a nascent experimental method known as synchrotron X-ray scanning tunneling microscopy at the Advanced Photon Source in Argonne by Hla and his colleagues, where they confirm that the molecules are positively charged on the surface of gold. STM images show the structure as a distorted triangular shape with three arms. The incorporation of the counterion below is proven by an STM film acquired with a record number of 8,000 spectroscopic images. Next, the Hla group used STM manipulation to further demonstrate control rotation, which shows clockwise and counterclockwise rotations at will.

“These findings may be useful for the development of nanomechanical devices where the individual units of the complex are designed to control, promote or restrict movement,” Hla said. “We have demonstrated the rotation of charged rare-earth complexes on a metal surface, which now makes it possible to study a complex for both their electronic and structural as well as mechanical properties.”

Reference: “Atomically Precise Control of Rotational Dynamics in Charged Rare Earth Complexes on a Metallic Surface” by Tolulope Michael Ajayi, Vijay Singh, Kyaw Zin Latt, Sanjoy Sarkar, Xinyue Cheng, Sineth Premarathna, Naveen K. Dandu, Shaoze Wang, Fahimeh Movahedifar, Sarah Wieghold, Nozomi Shirato, Volker Rose, Larry A. Curtiss, Anh T. Ngo, Eric Masson and Saw Wai Hla, October 22, 2022, Nature Communication.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-33897-3

The study was funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Science and Engineering Division.

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