ALBUQUERQUE, NM--It was believed that atoms, deposited on a substrate, formed no distinct distribution. Now, researchers at the Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories know that deposited atoms form orderly, controllable, 2D nanopatterns.

Pattern control at this level means that nanotemplates could be formed to fine-tune device characteristics of self-assembling nano-structures. Possibly, characteristics could be tailored for devices like photonic lattices--an advanced method for controlling light that is of interest to the telecommunications industry.

Observation of the real-time assembly process, along with control over physical factors that influence that process, offers a means of finding out about the conditions under which atoms self-assemble and how to influence that assembly into more desirable structures.

The researchers observed atoms of lead deposited on a copper substrate forming lead dots, lead stripes and reverse dots.