New Microscopy Technique Gets Close Enough To See The Lengths Of Atomic Bonds

A one-atom-wide probe scans a molecule to get the view.

Atomic Snapshot
Courtesy IBM Research-Zurich

For the first time, scientists have used an imaging technique that's so precise that it's possible to see the different lengths of individual atomic bonds. Using a method called non-contact atomic force microscopy, IBM researchers scanned a microscopic probe with a tip only an atom wide over a nanographene molecule and measured the forces between the probe and the sample. In this colored image, the bonds with more electrons—which are also shorter—are a brighter green.