• Mott insulator;
  • resistive switching;
  • scanning tunneling microscopy;
  • surface patterning;
  • transition metal chalcogenides


Here, the first experimental evidence for a strong electromechanical coupling in the Mott insulator GaTa4Se8 that allows highly reproducible nanoscaled writing by means of scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) is reported. The local electric field across the STM junction is observed to have a threshold value above which the clean (100) surface of GaTa4Se8 becomes mechanically instable: at voltage biases >1.1 V, the surface suddenly inflates and comes in contact with the STM tip, resulting in nanometer-sized craters. The formed pattern can be indestructibly “read” by STM at a lower voltage bias, thus allowing 5 Tdots inch−2 dense writing/reading at room temperature. The discovery of the electromechanical coupling in GaTa4Se8 might give new clues in the understanding of the electric pulse induced resistive switching recently observed in this stoichiometric Mott insulator.