Hyperfine interaction of individual atoms on a surface

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Science  19 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6412, pp. 336-339
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat7047

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Hyperfine spectra of surface atoms

The interaction of nuclei with nonzero spin with electron spins creates small electronic energy. With a scanning tunneling microscope tip, Willke et al. measured these hyperfine interactions for iron and titanium atoms that were manipulated on a magnesium oxide surface. The tip was also used to measure electron paramagnetic resonance spectra. The hyperfine structure of single atoms was sensitive to the binding site of the atom as well as its position relative to other magnetic atoms.

Science, this issue p. 336


Taking advantage of nuclear spins for electronic structure analysis, magnetic resonance imaging, and quantum devices hinges on knowledge and control of the surrounding atomic-scale environment. We measured and manipulated the hyperfine interaction of individual iron and titanium atoms placed on a magnesium oxide surface by using spin-polarized scanning tunneling microscopy in combination with single-atom electron spin resonance. Using atom manipulation to move single atoms, we found that the hyperfine interaction strongly depended on the binding configuration of the atom. We could extract atom- and position-dependent information about the electronic ground state, the state mixing with neighboring atoms, and properties of the nuclear spin. Thus, the hyperfine spectrum becomes a powerful probe of the chemical environment of individual atoms and nanostructures.

  • * On leave from Departamento de Física Aplicada, Universidad de Alicante, San Vicente del Raspeig 03690, Spain.

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