Direct observation of a long-lived single-atom catalyst chiseling atomic structures in graphene

Wei Li Wang, Elton J G Santos, Bin Jiang, Ekin Dogus Cubuk, Colin Ophus, Alba Centeno, Amaia Pesquera, Amaia Zurutuza, Jim Ciston, Robert Westervelt, Efthimios Kaxiras

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

62 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Fabricating stable functional devices at the atomic scale is an ultimate goal of nanotechnology. In biological processes, such high-precision operations are accomplished by enzymes. A counterpart molecular catalyst that binds to a solid-state substrate would be highly desirable. Here, we report the direct observation of single Si adatoms catalyzing the dissociation of carbon atoms from graphene in an aberration-corrected high-resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM). The single Si atom provides a catalytic wedge for energetic electrons to chisel off the graphene lattice, atom by atom, while the Si atom itself is not consumed. The products of the chiseling process are atomic-scale features including graphene pores and clean edges. Our experimental observations and first-principles calculations demonstrated the dynamics, stability, and selectivity of such a single-atom chisel, which opens up the possibility of fabricating certain stable molecular devices by precise modification of materials at the atomic scale.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNano Letters
Pages450-455
Number of pages6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2014

Publication series

NameNano Letters
Volume14

Keywords

  • HRTEM
  • Single-atom catalyst
  • graphene
  • molecular devices

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