Building one molecule from a reservoir of two atoms

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Science  25 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6391, pp. 900-903
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar7797

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Lighting the way to molecules, one by one

When chemists run reactions, what they are really doing is mixing up an enormous number of reacting partners and then hoping that they collide productively. It is possible to manipulate atoms more deliberately with a scanning tunneling microscope tip, but the process is then confined to a surface. Liu et al. directly manipulated individual atoms with light to form single molecules in isolation (see the Perspective by Narevicius). They used optical tweezers of two different colors to selectively steer ultracold sodium (Na) and cesium (Cs) atoms together. A subsequent optical excitation formed NaCs.

Science, this issue p. 900; see also p. 855