A new photograph shows two atoms vibrating together inside a molecule – a first for science.
Researchers used a mind-boggling technique where they turned an electron into a ‘flash bulb’ to capture the image.
The precise control required to set off the ‘flash’ has offered hope that scientists may one day be able to control chemicals at the atomic scale.
The team used ultrafast laser pulses to knock one electron out of its natural orbit in a molecule.
When it returns to the molecule, the atoms have moved – allowing the scientists to capture the atoms in motion.
Principal investigator Louis DiMauro of Ohio State University said that the feat marks a first step toward not only observing chemical reactions, but also controlling them on an atomic scale.
‘Through these experiments, we realized that we can control the trajectory of the electron when it comes back to the molecule, by adjusting the laser that launches it,’ said DiMauro, who is a professor of physics at Ohio State.
‘The next step will be to see if we can steer the electron in just the right way to actually control a chemical reaction.’
A standard technique for imaging a still object involves shooting the object with an electron beam – bombarding it with millions of electrons per second. The researchers’ new single-electron quantum approach allowed them to image rapid molecular motion.
‘You could use this to study individual atoms,’ DiMauro added, ‘but the greater impact to science will come when we can study reactions between more complex molecules. Looking at two atoms – that’s a long way from studying a more interesting molecule like a protein.’
Full Article | Source: www.dailymail.co.uk