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Traditionally, nanomaterial profiling using a single-molecule-terminated scanning probe is performed at the vacuum–solid interface often at a few Kelvin, but is not a notion immediately associated with liquid–solid interface at room temperature. Here, using a scanning tunnelling probe functionalized with a single C60 molecule stabilized in a high-density liquid, we resolve low-dimensional surface defects, atomic interfaces and capture Ångstrom-level bond-length variations in single-layer graphene and MoS2. Atom-by-atom controllable imaging contrast is demonstrated at room temperature and the electronic structure of the C60–metal probe complex within the encompassing liquid molecules is clarified using density functional theory. Our findings demonstrates that operating a robust single-molecular probe is not restricted to ultra-high vacuum and cryogenic settings. Hence the scope of high-precision analytics can be extended towards resolving sub-molecular features of organic elements and gauging ambient compatibility of emerging layered materials with atomic-scale sensitivity under experimentally less stringent conditions.




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


D.T. thanks Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) for financial support under Grant Number 11/SIRG/B2111