Probing and imaging spin interactions with a magnetic single-molecule sensor

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Science  17 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6441, pp. 670-673
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw7505

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Visualizing superexchange interactions

The resolution that can be achieved in scanning probe microscopy can be greatly enhanced by absorbing a molecule such as CO on the probe tip. Czap et al. now show that this approach can be used to scan spin and magnetic properties of molecules on a surface. They adsorbed a magnetic molecule, Ni(cyclopentadienyl)2, on a silver surface and then transferred one of these molecules to a scanning tunnel microscope tip. They could then bring the tip toward the adsorbate-covered surface and map out the strength of superexchange interactions.

Science, this issue p. 670


Magnetic single atoms and molecules are receiving intensifying research focus because of their potential as the smallest possible memory, spintronic, and qubit elements. Scanning probe microscopes used to study these systems have benefited greatly from new techniques that use molecule-functionalized tips to enhance spatial and spectroscopic resolutions and enable new sensing capabilities. We demonstrate a microscopy technique that uses a magnetic molecule, Ni(cyclopentadienyl)2, adsorbed at the apex of a scanning probe tip, to sense exchange interactions with another molecule adsorbed on a Ag(110) surface in a continuously tunable fashion in all three spatial directions. We further used the probe to image contours of exchange interaction strength, revealing angstrom-scale regions where the quantum states of two magnetic molecules strongly mix. Our results pave the way for new nanoscale imaging capabilities based on magnetic single-molecule sensors.

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