Understanding the structure of the first atomic contact in gold
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Nanoscale Research Letters 2013, 8:257 doi:10.1186/1556-276X-8-257Published: 29 May 2013
We have studied experimentally jump-to-contact (JC) and jump-out-of-contact (JOC) phenomena in gold electrodes. JC can be observed at first contact when two metals approach each other, while JOC occurs in the last contact before breaking. When the indentation depth between the electrodes is limited to a certain value of conductance, a highly reproducible behaviour in the evolution of the conductance can be obtained for hundreds of cycles of formation and rupture. Molecular dynamics simulations of this process show how the two metallic electrodes are shaped into tips of a well-defined crystallographic structure formed through a mechanical annealing mechanism. We report a detailed analysis of the atomic configurations obtained before contact and rupture of these stable structures and obtained their conductance using first-principles quantum transport calculations. These results help us understand the values of conductance obtained experimentally in the JC and JOC phenomena and improve our understanding of atomic-sized contacts and the evolution of their structural characteristics.