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Aug 30, 2022

Pulses from an atom-sharp tip enable researchers to break and form chemical bonds at will

Posted by in categories: chemistry, particle physics

Chemical reactions often produce messy mixtures of different products. Hence, chemists spend a lot of time coaxing their reactions to be more selective to make particular target molecules. Now, an international team of researchers has achieved that kind of selectivity by delivering voltage pulses to a single molecule through an incredibly sharp tip.

“Controlling the pathway of a chemical reaction, depending on the voltage pulses used, is unprecedented and very alluring to chemists,” says KAUST’s Shadi Fatayer.

The team used an instrument that combines scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and (AFM). Both techniques can map out the positions of atoms within individual molecules using a tip that may be just a few atoms wide. But the voltage can also be used to break bonds within a molecule, potentially allowing new bonds to form.

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