SURFACE STRUCTURE: Subatomic resolution force microscopy reveals internal structure and adsorption sites of small iron clusters

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Clusters built from individual iron atoms adsorbed on surfaces (adatoms) were investigated by atomic force microscopy (AFM) with subatomic resolution. Single copper and iron adatoms appeared as toroidal structures and multiatom clusters as connected structures, showing each individual atom as a torus. For single adatoms, the toroidal shape of the AFM image depends on the bonding symmetry of the adatom to the underlying structure [twofold for copper on copper(110) and threefold for iron on copper(111)]. Density functional theory calculations support the experimental data. The findings correct our previous work, in which multiple minima in the AFM signal were interpreted as a reflection of the orientation of a single front atom, and suggest that dual and triple minima in the force signal are caused by dimer and trimer tips, respectively.

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