Like a diner spearing a morsel of food with the tine of a fork, researchers have used the tip of a microscopic needle to lift a single atom from a surface and then replace it. The experiment, reported in the 2 May PRL, marks the first time single atoms have been manipulated using a purely mechanical technique, rather than one involving electric current. The new method could allow researchers to maneuver single atoms of nonconductive as well as conductive materials, perhaps for nanoscale circuits of the future.

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