Scanning probe microscopy can be used to image and characterize nanoscale objects while simultaneously enabling their manipulation and excitation. This combination of capabilities has enabled the creation of a range of nanoscale devices, but a serious shortcoming of the method is its seemingly inescapable limitation to two dimensions. Stefan Tautz and colleagues now show that careful manipulations with the tip of a scanning probe microscope can be used to lift a large planar molecule into an upright standing geometry on a pedestal of two metal adatoms. They also show that in this atypical and surprisingly stable upright orientation, the molecule acts as a coherent single-electron field emitter. The findings suggest that other molecules may also be brought into metastable upright positions, and that the third dimension can in fact be exploited for the design of functional nanostructures on surfaces.
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