Physicists used an electric field to control the single atomic bond between a microscope and a one-atom-thick layer of graphene. The newly realized approach, accomplished by changing the voltage across the bond, allowed researchers to pick up and drop the graphene with the microscope like a crane.

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Theoretically astounding! Of course metals like Au have supremely low hold on electrons (i.e. they conduct), but carbon too in networks frequently has delocalized or hyperconjugated electrons. But, I never imagined you could take an Au-C bond (or any bond) and run an electric field to manipulate it’s length… even though in retrospect manipulating bond lengths and vibrations is essential to techniques like spectroscopy. I understand the nature of sigma and pi bonding orbitals is determined by quantum processes and set to some degree. Of course, external electric fields have to influence the electron probability distribution. Just amazing application of general principles!


I wonder how this could positively impact photovoltaics. Isn’t a large problem associated with them due to inefficient bonds and placement of atoms with respect to energy transfer?


Can’t wait until there’s a claw machine version of this.


Is this an actual step towards industrial scale molecular assembly of carbon? Not even necessarily “exotic” forms with advanced traits like graphene, but other, more conventional forms. Ie, a first real step towards infinitely recyclable and reusable carbon fabrics and plastic replacements. I realize it is always a long step between lab breakthroughs and industrialization… but molecular assembly feels a lot like fusion just now, the answer to all of our problems – and 20-50 years away from commercial viability.


They could pick up the graphene like a crane but still couldn’t get it out of the lab.