All existing technology makes use of the properties of various materials – be it electrical, magnetic or optical. These properties have their origins in the way atoms inside those materials interact. But how exactly they come about is not always easy to understand or predict. In our lab we explore the very beginnings of what makes a material. To this end we engineer and craft assemblies of tens, hundreds or even thousands of atoms using low temperature scanning tunneling microscopy, and investigate their collective characteristics as they emerge.

Atoms are placed into their designated positions through atom manipulation, where the STM tip is used to move atoms around. The images below (each 5 nm wide) show the assembly of a chain of five cobalt atoms. Once constructed, the structure can be probed electronically with atomic precision using the same tip. To see more images as well as a movie demonstrating atom manipulation, check out our Gallery.

The Otte Lab is part of the Department of Quantum Nanoscience at TU Delft. Funding for our research is provided by the following sources: