The process of creating an atomically defined and robust metallic tip is described and quantified using measurements of contact conductance between gold electrodes and numerical simulations. Our experiments show how the same conductance behavior can be obtained for hundreds of cycles of formation and rupture of the nanocontact by limiting the indentation depth between the two electrodes up to a conductance value of approximately 5G0 in the case of gold. This phenomenon is rationalized using molecular dynamics simulations together with density functional theory transport calculations which show how, after repeated indentations (mechanical annealing), the two metallic electrodes are shaped into tips of reproducible structure. These results provide a crucial insight into fundamental aspects relevant to nanotribology or scanning probe microscopies.This work was supported by the Spanish government through Grants No. FIS2010-21883 and No. CONSOLIDER CSD2007-0010
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