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IBM scientists first to image atomic bonds within a single molecule

One News Page Staff
Saturday, 15 September 2012

IBM scientists first to image atomic bonds within a single moleculeby

IBM scientists have managed to image a single molecule in sufficient detail to reveal the structure of individual molecular bonds for the first time

ZURICH, Switzerland -- A team of IBM Research scientists in Zurich have used a technique known as Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) to produce incredibly detailed images of a single tiny molecule revealing the structure of individual atomic bonds for the first time.

The scientists imaged the bond order and length of individual atomic bonds within a C60 molecule and found they differ in their length and strength. The findings could be important for understanding graphene devices, which are tipped to potentially replace existing technologies like microchips in computing.

Lead scientist Leo Goss shared his excitement about the new imaging achievement. "Now we can really prove that... we can see different physical properties of different bonds, and that's really exciting," he said.

The AFM imaging technique uses a single molecule to act as a "needle" to pick up variations and grooves in the shell of a molecule - similar to a record player.

In order to ensure the molecule was kept steady enough, the instrumentation had to be entirely isolated from any vibration coming from the laboratory or the surroundings, and cooled to a chilly -268C in order to keep thermal vibrations to a minimum. At room temperature, the image would have been too blurred.

Image: IBM scientists used an atomic force microscope to reveal the detailed structure of individual atomic bonds within a graphene molecule for the firs time
Credit: IBM
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