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Using vibration to detect impurities

Working with colleagues from the Sorbonne, Leeds scientists located a single silicon atom in a graphene crystal using an electron microscope and then observed its vibrations within the crystal.

The energy of the microscope beam makes atoms vibrate, creating a unique vibrational fingerprint. Impurities can change that fingerprint, but advanced techniques are needed to detect these subtle changes.

Quentin Ramasse, Professor of Advanced Electron Microscopy, explained: “We now have evidence that a single ‘foreign’ atom in a solid can change its vibrational property. We have shown for the first time that you can record that defect signature with atomic precision.”