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Phys Rev Lett. 2000 Nov 20;85(21):4566-9.

Direct observation of the quantum tunneling of single hydrogen atoms with a scanning tunneling microscope

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Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics and Cornell Center for Materials Research, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Single hydrogen atoms were imaged on the Cu(001) surface by scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). The vibrations of individual H and D atoms against the surface were excited and detected by inelastic electron tunneling spectroscopy (STM-IETS). Variable temperature measurements of H atom diffusion showed a transition from thermally activated diffusion to quantum tunneling at 60 K. Regimes of phonon-assisted and electron-limited quantum tunneling were observed. The thermal diffusion rate of D atoms varied over 7 orders of magnitude between 80 and 50 K with no transition to quantum tunneling down to a thermal hopping rate of 4x10(-7) s(-1).

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