Past studies by various research groups around the world were able to demonstrate origami-like folding of graphite with a scanning probe, but could not command where or how the folds would occur. Now, by replacing the graphite with high-quality graphene nanoislands, researchers in China and the US have leveraged the atomic-level control of STM into an origami nanofabrication tool with an impressive level of precision.
“Similar to conventional paper origami, our current work has made it possible to create new complex nanostructures by custom-design folding of atomic layer materials,” says Hong-Jun Gao, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) who led this latest work. Alongside Shixuan Du and collaborators at CAS, as well as Vanderbilt University and the University of Maryland in the U.S, Gao reports how they can fold single layers of graphene with the direction of the fold specified over a range from around the magic angle at 1.1° (where observations of correlated electron behavior have been causing such a stir) to 60°, with a precision of 0.1°. Their STM manipulations also leave tubular structures at the edges that have one-dimensional structure electron characteristics similar to carbon nanotubes.