JoVE Logo
Faculty Resource Center

Sign In





Representative Results






Hand Controlled Manipulation of Single Molecules via a Scanning Probe Microscope with a 3D Virtual Reality Interface

Published: October 2nd, 2016



1Peter Grünberg Institut (PGI-3), Forschungszentrum Jülich, 2Fundamentals of Future Information Technology, Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA)

We demonstrate the precise manipulation of individual organic molecules on a metal surface with the tip of a scanning probe microscope driven in 3D by the experimenter's hand using a motion capture system and fully immersive virtual reality goggles.

Considering organic molecules as the functional building blocks of future nanoscale technology, the question of how to arrange and assemble such building blocks in a bottom-up approach is still open. The scanning probe microscope (SPM) could be a tool of choice; however, SPM-based manipulation was until recently limited to two dimensions (2D). Binding the SPM tip to a molecule at a well-defined position opens an opportunity of controlled manipulation in 3D space. Unfortunately, 3D manipulation is largely incompatible with the typical 2D-paradigm of viewing and generating SPM data on a computer. For intuitive and efficient manipulation we therefore couple a low-temperature non-contact atomic force/scanning tunneling microscope (LT NC-AFM/STM) to a motion capture system and fully immersive virtual reality goggles. This setup permits "hand controlled manipulation" (HCM), in which the SPM tip is moved according to the motion of the experimenter's hand, while the tip trajectories as well as the response of the SPM junction are visualized in 3D. HCM paves the way to the development of complex manipulation protocols, potentially leading to a better fundamental understanding of nanoscale interactions acting between molecules on surfaces. Here we describe the setup and the steps needed to achieve successful hand-controlled molecular manipulation within the virtual reality environment.

The low-temperature non-contact atomic force/scanning tunneling microscope (LT NC-AFM/STM, in the following simply termed SPM) is the tool of choice for atomically precise manipulation of individual atoms or molecules1-3. SPM-based manipulation is typically limited to two dimensions and consists of a series of abrupt and often stochastic manipulation events (jumps). This essentially limits the control over the process. Contacting the molecule in question by a single chemical bond at a well-defined atomic position leads to an approach that can overcome these limitations4-9. Throughout its manipulation th....

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Caution: PTCDA can be irritating to the skin or eyes and should therefore be handled with care using appropriate gloves. Please consult appropriate safety brochures. Cryogenic liquids can produce effects on the skin similar to a thermal burn or can cause frostbite on prolonged exposure. Always wear safety glasses and appropriate cryogenic gloves when handling cryogenic liquids. The gas formed by cryogenic liquids is very cold and usually heavier than air and can accumulate near the floor displacing air. When there is not enough air or oxygen.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Note: This part shows work published in7,8.

Applying HCM to the problem of lifting PTCDA/Ag(111) out of a layer, we were able to write a pattern by sequentially removing individual molecules (Figure 9). In total 48 molecules were removed, 40 of which could be redeposited to the clean Ag(111), showing that the molecules stay intact during the manipulation process. This allows using HCM.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Like other SPM-based methods, the molecular manipulation experiments described in this paper also depend to some extent on the properties of the SPM tip. The tip apex structure (which cannot be fully controlled) determines the strength of the tip-molecule bond. Hence the strength of the tip-molecule contact may vary considerably and thus sometimes may be too low. Hence within the protocol we refer to some basic tests of tip quality and tip treatment procedures. However, a more severe tip treatment might be required in so.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

The authors have no acknowledgements.


Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Name Company Catalog Number Comments
LN2 caution: cryogenic liquid
LHe caution: cryogenic liquid
PTCDA caution: irritating substance
Knudsen cell (K-cell) custom
ErLEED Specs used with power supply ErLEED 1000A
combient LT NC-AFM/STM Createc
qPlus sensor Createc TFS
preamplifier  Createc amplifier for tuning forc signal fixed to LN2 shield (stage 1)
Low-Noise Voltage Preamplifier Standford Research System SR560 external amplifier for tuning forc signal (stage 2)
Variable Gain Low Noise Current Amplifier Femto DLPCA-200 amplifier for tunneling current
Bonita Vicon B10, SN: MXBN-0B10-3658 MCS IR camera
Apex Interaction Device Vicon SN: AP0062 MCS trackable object (TO)
MX Calibration Wand Vicon MCS calibration object
Tracker Vicon MCS software
BS series voltage supply stahl-electronics BS 1-4 RVS
summing amplifier  custom, gain 1, based on operational amplifier TL072
Oculus Rrift Development Kit 2 Oculus VR HMD
TipControl custom-written software
VRinterface custom-written software

  1. Barth, J. V., Costantini, G., Kern, K. Engineering atomic and molecular nanostructures at surfaces. Nature. 437, 671-679 (2005).
  2. Otero, R., Rosei, F., Besenbacher, F. Scanning tunneling microscopy manipulation of complex organic molecules on solid surfaces. Annu. Rev. Phys. Chem. 57, 497-525 (2006).
  3. Urgel, J. I., Ecija, D., Auwärter, W., Barth, J. V. Controlled Manipulation of Gadolinium Coordinated Supramolecules by Low-Temperature Scanning Tunneling Microscopy. Nano Lett. 14, 1369-1373 (2014).
  4. Fournier, N., Wagner, C., Weiss, C., Temirov, R., Tautz, F. S. Force-controlled lifting of molecular wires. Phys. Rev. B. 84, 035435 (2011).
  5. Wagner, C., Fournier, N., Tautz, F. S., Temirov, R. Measurement of the Binding Energies of the Organic-Metal Perylene-Tetracarboxylic-Dianhydride/Au(111) Bonds by Molecular Manipulation Using an Atomic Force Microscope. Phys. Rev. Lett. 109 (7), 076102 (2012).
  6. Wagner, C., et al. Non-additivity of molecule-surface van der Waals potentials from force measurements. Nat. Commun. 5, 5568 (2014).
  7. Green, M. F. B., et al. Patterning a hydrogen-bonded molecular monolayer with a hand-controlled scanning probe microscope. Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology. 5, 1926-1932 (2014).
  8. Leinen, P., et al. Virtual reality visual feedback for hand-controlled scanning probe microscopy manipulation of single molecules. Beilstein J. Nanotechnol. 6, 2148-2153 (2015).
  9. Wagner, C., et al. Scanning Quantum Dot Microscopy. Phys. Rev. Lett. 115 (2), 026101 (2015).
  10. Mura, M., et al. Experimental and theoretical analysis of H-bonded supramolecular assemblies of PTCDA molecules. Phys. Rev. B. 81 (19), 195412 (2010).
  11. Besocke, K. An easily operable scanning tunneling microscope. Surf. Sci. Lett. (1-2), 145-153 (1987).
  12. Giessibl, F. J. Advances in atomic force microscopy. Rev. Mod. Phys. 75 (3), 949-983 (2003).
  13. Albrecht, T. R., Grütter, P., Horne, D., Rugar, D. Frequency modulation detection using high-Q cantilevers for enhanced force microscope sensitivity. J. Appl. Phys. 69 (2), 668-673 (1991).
  14. Temirov, R., Lassise, A., Anders, F. B., Tautz, F. S. Kondo effect by controlled cleavage of a single-molecule contact. Nanotechnology. 19 (6), 065401 (2008).
  15. Glöckler, K., et al. Highly ordered structures and submolecular scanning tunnelling microscopy contrast of PTCDA and DM-PBDCI monolayers on Ag(111) and Ag(110). Surf. Sci. 405 (1), 1-20 (1998).
  16. Simon, G. H., Heyde, M., Rust, H. -. P. Recipes for cantilever parameter determination in dynamic force spectroscopy: spring constant and amplitude. Nanotechnology. 18 (25), 255503 (2007).
  17. Rohlfing, M., Temirov, R., Tautz, F. S. Adsorption structure and scanning tunneling data of a prototype organic-inorganic interface PTCDA on Ag (111). Phys. Rev. B. 76 (11), 115421 (2007).
  18. Guthold, M., et al. Controlled Manipulation of Molecular Samples with the nanoManipulator. IEEE/ASME Trans. Mechatronics. 5 (2), 189-198 (2000).

This article has been published

Video Coming Soon

JoVE Logo


Terms of Use





Copyright © 2024 MyJoVE Corporation. All rights reserved