First Hi-Res Images Taken of a Molecule Breaking and Forming Chemical Bonds
Felix R. Fischer of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used nc-AFM techniques to yield direct imaging of covalent bond structure in single-molecule chemical reactions using .
Fischer originally set out with the goal of finding a better way to mass produce graphene nanostructures for use in transistors, logic gates, and other pieces in electronic equipment. To create these exact bonds from the bottom up, the laboratory at UC Berkeley needed a clear view under controlled reactions in order to make sure they were getting it right.
Enter a clever imaging technique called “noncontact atomic force microscopy,” which basically works the same way that a phonograph does: Scratching or probing a surface with a sharp tip in order to read it. Unlike a phonograph, though, the AFM ‘needle’ — really a single oxygen atom — is deflected by small electronic forces that create a readable pattern. This type of microscopy ended up being so precise that it was able to detect not only the atoms, but the actual forces that create the bonds between them. (more)