The Order of the Universe Revealed in a Single Molecule

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It may look
like a piece of honeycomb, but this lattice-shaped image is the
first ever close-up view of a single molecule.

from IBM used an atomic force microscope (AFM) to reveal the chemical
bonds within a molecule.

‘This is the
first time that all the atoms in a molecule have been imaged,’ lead
researcher Leo Gross said.

The researchers
focused on a single molecule of pentacene, which is commonly used
in solar cells. The rectangular-shaped organic molecule is made
up of 22 carbon atoms and 14 hydrogen atoms.

In the image
above the hexagonal shapes of the five carbon rings are clear and
even the positions of the hydrogen atoms around the carbon rings
can be seen.

To give some
perspective, the space between the carbon rings is only 0.14 nanometers
across, which is roughly one million times smaller than the diameter
of a grain of sand.

‘If you think
about how a doctor uses an X-ray to image bones and organs inside
the human body, we are using the atomic force microscope to image
the atomic structures that are the backbones of individual molecules,’
said IBM researcher Gerhard Meyer.

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31, 2009

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