Scientists at Birmingham University have made a major breakthrough in manipulating tiny molecules in order to induce the 'birth' of an atom.

The Nanoscale Science Facility has devised a new technique of molecular dissection which results in a daughter atom being 'born' from the parent molecule.

This breakthrough is significant because physicists developed the method of dissociation using two electrons, which was achieved at room temperature.

Devised by Professor Richard Palmer and Dr Peter Sloan, the new technique uses the tip of a Scanning Tunnelling Microscope (STM) to inject two electrons into the parent chlorobenzine molecule.

This induces a dissociation event - the first electron makes the molecule vibrate while the second breaks the bond between parent molecule and the daughter chlorine atom.

It had only been possible to conduct such experiments at cryogenic temperatures, at -269?C, as heat can dramatically destabilise the target molecule.

But by securing the chlorobenzine to a silicon surface through the carbon ring that forms part of the molecule, which enables scientists to manipulate it.

Prof Palmer said: "Through this experiment we are operating at the ultimate level of control over chemistry."

He added: "We now have a chance to harness this new knowledge of chemical selectivity and apply it to make chemistry more tuneable."

"With our colleagues in the school of biosciences, we are now exploring whether this type of process can be exploited in the field of bioremediation, with the goal of breaking down and extract hazardous contaminants to improve the environment," he explained.