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Single-atom/molecule manipulation for fabricating an atomic-scale switching device is a promising technology for nanoelectronics. So far, scanning probe microscopy studies have demonstrated several atomic-scale switches, mostly in cryogenic environments. Although a high-performance switch at room temperature is essential for practical applications, this remains a challenging obstacle to overcome. Here we report a room-temperature switch composed of a binary atom cluster on the semiconductor surface.

Distinctly different types of manipulation techniques enable the construction of an atomically defined binary cluster and the electronic switching of the conformations, either unidirectionally or bidirectionally. The switching process involves a complex rearrangement of multiple atoms in concerted manner. Such a feature is strikingly different from any switches mediated by single-atom/molecule processes that have been previously reported.

Figure 1
Pb nanoclusters constructed by successive atom manipulations.
Pb nanocluster can be constructed by collecting individual Pb atoms into a predetermined nanospace (dashed triangle in each image). Conformation of a Pb nanocluster tends to be stable with increasing numbers of constituent Pb atoms.

Figure 2
Current-induced switching of nanocluster conformation.
Conformation of a Pb trimer switches reversibly between particular pair (L and R state) by applying minute amounts of current from a scanning probe microscopy tip.


Figure 3
Operation of many cycles of switching at room temperature.
Applying current to a particular position (red or blue cross in each image) enables consecutive unidirectional switch of a Pb trimer to direct L and R states alternatively.

To learn more about this research, please view the full research report entitled "Room-temperature concerted switch made of a binary atom cluster" at this page of the Nature Communications website.

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