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IBM Science

Detailed Images Show Intra-Molecular Bonds 53

Techmeology writes "A team from IBM in Zurich has published images of molecules that are detailed enough to show the lengths of atomic bonds. 'The IBM team's innovation to create the first single molecule picture, of a molecule called pentacene, was to use the tip to pick up a single, small molecule made up of a carbon and an oxygen atom. This carbon monoxide molecule effectively acts as a record needle, probing with unprecedented accuracy the very surfaces of atoms. It is difficult to overstate what precision measurements these are. The experiments must be isolated from any kind of vibration coming from within the laboratory or even its surroundings. They are carried out at a scale so small that room temperature induces wigglings of the AFM's constituent molecules that would blur the images, so the apparatus is kept at a cool -268C.' This allows an analysis of imperfections in the molecular structure (abstract). The team plans to use the method to examine molecules of graphene."
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Detailed Images Show Intra-Molecular Bonds

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  • Nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @02:56PM (#41347397) Homepage

    Nice. AFMs have been imaging atoms for about two decades (and yes, they do look like spheres). Being able to see intermolecular bonds is a big step forward.

    AFMs are amusing. The idea is so simple - mechanically scan atoms with a really sharp point. Everyone had assumed that you'd have to scan atoms with electron beams (as with electron microscopes) or X-rays (as with X-ray diffraction), using some particle much smaller than the atoms being scanned. Then Quate and Gerber figured out how to scan atoms mechanically. Which sounds like a really silly idea, but works.

    An AFM works like a mechanical record player. It's a pointy needle on a positioner made using piezoelectric elements. Raster scan signals are applied to the positioners to get a classic TV-type scan, and the third axis has its position measured and is servoed until the point touches the sample. Height measurements come out. Basic AFMs aren't very complicated or very big.

    It took a surprisingly long time to come up with this idea. It was invented in 1986. One probably could have been built in 1946, and certainly in 1966.

  • Basic Research (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zooblethorpe ( 686757 ) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @03:01PM (#41347433)
    It is is good to see this kind of basic research is still being done. Even as Hewlett Packard has gutted its research capabilities and looks set to suit to its corporate grave, blue-chip IBM shows that it still understands the need for discovery. Though it is perhaps indicative that this team is decidedly not American...

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