Tuesday, December 21, 2010

merry christmas from infiniflux!

merry christmas from infiniflux!

Hey internet!

Hope you have a great and restful holiday break! The above image is a scanning tunnelling micrograph (STM) of a Si (111) wafer passivated with hydrogen under ultrahigh vacuum. The pattern of blackish dots arises due to the STM tip tunnelling current through the unfilled antibonding states of the surface atoms. Translated into layspeak, those little black dots are fairly good representations of individual Si atoms. Boo-yah. Let's see Hallmark do that.

In fact, the image above is about 100 nm x 100 nm, which is around 1.6 trillion times smaller than a 5 inch square Christmas card.

The white dots spelling out my very special christmas message (it helps if you squint)[1] were created in the surface by running the STM tip over the pattern with a high bias, ripping off hydrogen as it travels and leaving a dangling bond. This forms a midgap state, which is easier to pass current through; therefore the dangling bond shows up as a white dot on the image. This sort of patterning is much more useful than just making cheesy holiday cheer, and helps scientists to better understand the electronic properties of surfaces and interfaces. Such patterns may allow them to precisely create atomic wires for use in technologies such as spintronics. So cool!

The image was made by my friend and fellow grad student Marco, who is studying with Dr. Robert Wolkow at the University of Alberta. Marco is officially an honorary infinifluxer for life, an esteemed and exclusive club to which I am very happy to welcome him into. You too can join this club if you discover an element and name it after me. Act now in the next ten minutes and we'll throw in a complimentary Slap Chop. Operators are standing by.

Your Canadian tax dollars at work!

[1] I would have tried to write a more inclusive holiday message, but it's a huge pain in the rear to write large patterns. Sorry to all fans of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Festivus. We can still have an airing of the grievances if you want.
[1a] The largeish white blobs are gunk that tends to fall off of the tip when you are patterning. I definitely gained a lot of respect for people that work with STMs for their research in doing this. There are umpteen millions of different ways for things to go wrong when you're trying to manipulate atoms.


Bethany said...

i love this.

mel said...

Beautiful science guys!!

Laura said...

I'd be more likely to name an element after you if you threw in some Ginsu knives or a genuine faux diamond bracelet.

Will said...

Wow, bravo. I've done a little pattern etching with laser ablation, but nothing this small. Nice!