Symposium MA03—Directed Matter—Atom-by-Atom Assembly with Electron Beams and Scanning Probes
The rise of nanotechnology was heralded by the experiments by Don Eigler (IBM), who used the scanning probe microscope (SPM) tip to manipulate xenon atoms on metal surfaces. Over the following 25 years, SPM manipulation of atoms and molecules advanced dramatically, addressing a wide variety of surface bound material systems with exquisite precision and demonstrating significant technological and scientific milestones. As a tool for arbitrary construction of atomically precise structures, the 2D nature of SPM manipulation and the speed limitations inherent in moving macroscopic physical tip still limit the application of the expanding toolset to relatively small 2D structures. Concurrently, electron microscopy emerged as a reliable and widespread tool, routinely offering atomically resolved images. Unlike SPM, electron microscopy has long been perceived as purely an imaging tool, with beam induced modifications in material structure considered as a hindrance, to be minimized by a proper choice of imaging conditions or beam energy. However, in the last 5 years, it was demonstrated that the electron beam can induce subtle and controllable changes in material structure, including chemical transformations of layered materials, chemical bonding between adsorbed molecules and substrates, crystallization of vacancy planes in oxides, controlled atomic dynamic of interstitial atoms, and single vacancy formation in layered materials. Combined with the development of beam control electronics, big data acquisition and analytic tools, and AI feedback systems, this puts electron microscopy at the brink of a transition from a pure imaging tool to one capable of creating structures with atomic precision and high throughput, the long-held ultimate dream and possibly a final frontier of the nanoscience. If established, the field is poised for rapid growth enabled by thousands of extant STEM platforms. Rapid realization of these opportunities necessitates initiating an interdisciplinary research effort combining the electron microscopy, data analytics/image analysis, and electrical engineering communities, as well as stringent attention to materials science aspects of these phenomena. Researchers in fields which require atomically precise structures will benefit from recent developments in both scanning probe and electron beam based atom manipulation. The proposed symposium will bring together the experts in scanning probe atomic fabrication and atomically resolved electron beam studies, bring these advances and opportunities to the attention of materials research communities, and serve as a much-needed seed to establish the rapid growth of atomically precise technologies.