I don’t have a lot of time to post today, but alert reader Ginger brought this cool item to my attention. It’s a press release of a finding to appear in the “early edition” of Science, and shows the formation of benzene-ringlike structures from a complex chemical reaction. The details are given here. An excerpt:
When Felix Fischer of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) set out to develop nanostructures made of graphene using a new, controlled approach to chemical reactions, the first result was a surprise: spectacular images of individual carbon atoms and the bonds between them.
“We weren’t thinking about making beautiful images; the reactions themselves were the goal,” says Fischer, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division (MSD) and a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. “But to really see what was happening at the single-atom level we had to use a uniquely sensitive atomic force microscope in Michael Crommie’s laboratory.” Crommie is an MSD scientist and a professor of physics at UC Berkeley.
What the microscope showed the researchers, says Fischer, “was amazing.” The specific outcomes of the reaction were themselves unexpected, but the visual evidence was even more so. “Nobody has ever taken direct, single-bond-resolved images of individual molecules, right before and immediately after a complex organic reaction,” Fischer says.
Here you go; these are unbelievable photos:
The technique used to get these images, called noncontact atomic force microscopy, which in effect uses a single atom as a camera lens, is equally amazing. We should all be proud that our species can do something like this:
The collaborators then turned to a technique called noncontact atomic force microscopy (nc-AFM), which probes the surface with a sharp tip. The tip is mechanically deflected by electronic forces very close to the sample, moving like a phonograph needle in a groove.
“A carbon monoxide molecule adsorbed onto the tip of the AFM ‘needle’ leaves a single oxygen atom as the probe,” Fischer explains. “Moving this ‘atomic finger’ back and forth over the silver surface is like reading Braille, as if we were feeling the small atomic-scale bumps made by the atoms.” Fischer notes that high-resolution AFM imaging was first performed by Gerhard Meyer’s group at IBM Zurich, “but here we are using it to understand the results of a fundamental chemical reaction.”
The single-atom moving finger of the nc-AFM could feel not only the individual atoms but the forces representing the bonds formed by the electrons shared between them. The resulting images bore a startling resemblance to diagrams from a textbook or on the blackboard, used to teach chemistry, except here no imagination is required.
The atomic “theory” is verified once again. When I was younger I never thought we’d be able to see individual atoms, but now that’s almost routine. It’s stunning that we can even see the bonds between them, looking like the Tinkertoys I played with as a child.
Reference: “Direct Imaging of Covalent Bond Structure in Single-Molecule Chemical Reactions,” by Dimas G. de Oteyza, Patrick Gorman, Yen-Chia Chen, Sebastian Wickenburg, Alexander Riss, Duncan J. Mowbray, Grisha Etkin, Zahra Pedramrazi, Hsin-Zon Tsai, Angel Rubio, Michael F. Crommie, and Felix R. Fischer, will appear in Science and is now available on Science Express,http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2013/05/29/science.1238187.abstract