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Research Highlight | Center for Nanoscale Materials

Characterization of just one atom using synchrotron X-rays

In a Nature paper, scientists report that they have determined both the elemental type and chemical state of single iron and terbium atoms using synchrotron X-rays.

Scientific Achievement

For the first time since the discovery of X-rays in 1895, x-ray spectroscopy has been successfully performed on a single atom. Elemental types and chemical states of an iron and a terbium atom were simultaneously determined using synchrotron X-rays.

Significance and Impact

This work connects synchrotron X-rays to quantum tunneling process thereby enabling simultaneous detection of elemental and chemical states of an atom. Such ability may transform how scientists detect materials and impact research areas that include environmental, medical, and quantum information science.

Research Details

  • Research was performed at the XTIP beamline at the Advanced Photon Source and the Center for Nanoscale Materials.
  • Fe and Tb atoms were inserted in respective molecular hosts and the X-rays signatures were measured at 30 K using SX-STM.

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-06011-w

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About Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials
The Center for Nanoscale Materials is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit https://​sci​ence​.osti​.gov/​U​s​e​r​-​F​a​c​i​l​i​t​i​e​s​/​U​s​e​r​-​F​a​c​i​l​i​t​i​e​s​-​a​t​-​a​-​G​lance.

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