CO Meets CO, One at a Time

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Science  07 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6175, pp. 1083-1084
DOI: 10.1126/science.1251251

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In his 1959 lecture, “There is plenty of room at the bottom” (1), Richard Feynman challenged scientists to build microscopes that could be used to manipulate atoms one by one. Twenty-five years later, the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) was invented (2), enabling individual atoms to be dragged to specific locations in a smooth surface (3). The atomic force microscope (AFM) (4) allowed even more sophisticated manipulations of atoms and molecules. At first sight, the importance of these feats may appear to be of an academic nature, but the wider implications in nanotechnology, which aims to manipulate matter at the atomic level to produce new materials, soon became clear. On page 1120 of this issue, Weymouth et al. (5) measure the forces between two single CO molecules, an example of the type of fundamental understanding that can be obtained with atomic force microscopy.