Since the beginning of the 1980s the scanning tunneling microscope has changed the way how scientists can interact with the nanoworld. With the advent of this technique it became possible to actually “see” atoms. Today the STM allows controlled manipulation of surfaces down to the atomic scale – a dream that was first conceived in the famous lecture “There is plenty of room at the bottom” by Richard Feynman in 1959. The ability to arrange the atoms the way we want has opened the path to the bottom-up study of novel phenomena. For example, confined electronic quantum states can be made visible and the spin states of single atoms can be studied.
The Nanomaterials Lecture presented at Northwestern University in Evanston introduced the basic concepts of STM in the context of its impact on nanoscience and nanotechnology. Lecture notes can be requested here.