Imaging and Manipulating Molecules on a Zeolite Surface with an Atomic Force Microscope

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Science  16 Mar 1990:
Vol. 247, Issue 4948, pp. 1330-1333
DOI: 10.1126/science.247.4948.1330


The adsorption of neutral molecules and ions on the surfaces of zeolites was observed in real time with an atomic force microscope (AFM). Direct imaging of the surface of the zeolite clinoptilolite was possible by using a diluted tert-butyl ammonium chloride solution as a medium. Images of the crystal in different liquids revealed that molecules could be bound to the surface in different ways; neutral molecules of tert-butanol formed an ordered array, whereas tert-butyl ammonium ions formed clusters. These absorbed molecules were not rearranged by the AFM tip when used in an imaging mode. However, when a sufficiently large force was applied, the tip of the AFM could rearrange the tert-butyl ammonium ions on the zeolite surface. This demonstration of molecular manipulation suggests new applications, including biosensors and lithography.

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