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Beilstein J Nanotechnol. 2015 Nov 16;6:2148-53. doi: 10.3762/bjnano.6.220. eCollection 2015.

Virtual reality visual feedback for hand-controlled scanning probe microscopy manipulation of single molecules.

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Peter Grünberg Institut (PGI-3), Forschungszentrum Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany ; Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA)-Fundamentals of Future Information Technology, 52425 Jülich, Germany.


Controlled manipulation of single molecules is an important step towards the fabrication of single molecule devices and nanoscale molecular machines. Currently, scanning probe microscopy (SPM) is the only technique that facilitates direct imaging and manipulations of nanometer-sized molecular compounds on surfaces. The technique of hand-controlled manipulation (HCM) introduced recently in Beilstein J. Nanotechnol. 2014, 5, 1926-1932 simplifies the identification of successful manipulation protocols in situations when the interaction pattern of the manipulated molecule with its environment is not fully known. Here we present a further technical development that substantially improves the effectiveness of HCM. By adding Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles to our HCM set-up we provide the experimentalist with 3D visual feedback that displays the currently executed trajectory and the position of the SPM tip during manipulation in real time, while simultaneously plotting the experimentally measured frequency shift (Δf) of the non-contact atomic force microscope (NC-AFM) tuning fork sensor as well as the magnitude of the electric current (I) flowing between the tip and the surface. The advantages of the set-up are demonstrated by applying it to the model problem of the extraction of an individual PTCDA molecule from its hydrogen-bonded monolayer grown on Ag(111) surface.


Oculus Rift; non-contact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM); perylene-3,4,9,10-tetracarboxylic dianhydride (PTCDA); scanning probe microscopy (SPM); scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM); single-molecule manipulation; virtual reality interface

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