As part of a greater effort to someday build computing elements at an atomic scale, IBM scientists in Zurich have taken the highest-resolution image ever of an individual molecule using non-contact atomic force microscopy. Performed in an ultrahigh vacuum at 5 degrees Kelvin, scientists were able to "to look through the electron cloud and see the atomic backbone of an individual molecule for the first time," a feat necessary for the further development of atomic scale electronic building blocks.
Atomic force microscopy employs a cantilever so small that its tip tapers to a nanoscale point. As the microscope scans, the cantilever bounces up and down in response to the miniscule forces between the tip and the sample, generating a picture of the sample's surface. The pentacene molecule sampled consists of 22 carbon atoms and 14 hydrogen atoms and measures 1.4 nanometers in length, with the space between carbon atoms registering at 0.14 nanometers, or half a million times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.
Understanding the charge distribution of molecules could bring scientists a large step closer to cracking atomic scale computing, which could vastly reduce power consumption and fabrication costs.
It's simply amazing to physically see how small our world really is.
Business Intelligence / Analytics
Wow. Pretty cool. It is amazing what we can do. I wonder if we will ever be able to see to the sub-atomic level.
That's great for I. B. M., however what does the scientists get out of it?
Mark Anthony Gonsalves
4 days in, only 4 comments?? You'd think people'd be more excited! Then again, "WOO HOO, A MOLECULE!!"
I don't believe it's possible to literally "see" a subatomic particle with any instrument as the wavelength of light is much larger than a subatomic particle. This image is about as close to it as you'll get.
wow, it's great.
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Sitting in genetics right now and reading this article instead of taking notes makes me giggle.
Department of Biology
I've gotten images of individual gold atoms that are just as defined as this image. I don't know what kind of 'scope they're using at IBM, but I'd bet it was at least a few hundred thousand more than the one I used. The trusty Nanosurf Easy Scan, a bargain at $50k-$70k.
This may be picking at nits but you talk about thermodynamic temperatures as, for example, 5 Kelvin. You don't say degrees (this was changed around 1980.) FWIW.
Next stop quarks..
While we have seen some fine imagery of single atoms and even single electron clouds- the ability to see a molecule is in some ways harder- as electron microscopy can often times do physical damage to the weakly strong forces holding molecules together. As for our ability to ever visualize subatomic particles- well we can sometimes get a very good view of something without ever seeing it- by analyzing the influence it has imparted. I just find it nice that ball and stick models accurately portrait molecules when they where developed well over a century ago- way to go August Wilhelm von Hofmann
It should be possible to construct a hologram image of a molecule from data.