'Molecular surgery' snips off a single atom

A single hydrogen atom has been snipped off a molecule and then
added back on again, marking the first time a single chemical bond has
been broken and reforged in a controlled, reversible way.

researchers used a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) for their
cutting tool, which works by manoeuvring a sharp metal tip close to an
object, applying a small voltage, and measuring the trickle of
electrons that flow between the two.

The team first used their STM to locate a methylaminocarbyne (CNHCH3) molecule that was fixed to a platinum surface.

they turned up the voltage, increasing the flow of electrons. That was
enough to break one bond – between the molecule's nitrogen and
hydrogen atom – but not to disturb any of the other bonds,
leaving a molecule of methylisocyanide (CNCH3).


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