Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


For first time atomic changes in a molecule during a chemical reaction photographed

Taking an image of an individual molecule while it undergoes a chemical reaction has been deemed one of the holy grails of chemistry.

Scientists at the University of Berkeley and the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) have managed, for the very first time, to take direct, single-bond-resolved images of individual molecules just before and immediately after a complex organic reaction. The images enable appreciating the processes of the rupture and creation of links between the atoms making up a molecule.

The article, entitled Direct Imaging of Covalent Bond Structure in Single-Molecule Chemical Reactions, appears today, the 30 of May, in the online Science Express as an outstanding research work and will be published in the print edition of Science in the middle of June. The authors are the teams of Felix Fischer (Department of Chemistry at Berkeley), Michael Crommie (Department of Physics at the same university) and Ángel Rubio (Professor at the UPV/EHU and researcher at the CSIC-UPV/EHU Centre for the Physics of Materials and at the Donostia International Physics Center).

The lead author of the article is Mr. Dimas Oteyza, who has just been reincorporated into the CSIC-UPV/EHU Centre for the Physics of Materials after his postdoctoral term in Berkeley.

Organic chemical reactions are, in general, fundamental processes that underlie all biology, as well as highly important industrial processes, such as the production of liquid fuel. The structural models of molecules that we have traditionally relied on to understand these processes come from indirect measurements averaged over an enormous number of molecules (in the order of 1020) as well as from theoretical calculations. Nobody has ever before taken direct, single-bond-resolved images of individual molecules right before and immediately after a complex organic reaction.

“The importance of our discovery is that we were able to image the detailed microscopic structures that a molecule can transform into on a surface, thus allowing us to directly determine the microscopic atomic motions that underlie these chemical transformations”, explained Ángel Rubio. More specifically, researchers were able to record highly resolved images of an oligo-enediyne (a simple molecule composed of three benzene rings linked by carbon atoms) deposited on a flat gold surface. The technique used is called non-contact Atomic Force Microscopy (nc-AFM), based on an instrument with an extraordinarily sensitive tactile probe. This AFM uses a very fine needle that can sense even the smallest atomic-scale bumps on a surface in much the same way that you would use the tip of your fingers to read/feel a word written in Braille. Given that the oligo-enediyne molecules studied are so small (~10–9 m) the probe tip of this instrument was configured to consist of only a single oxygen atom. This arises from a single carbon monoxide (CO) molecule adsorbed onto the AFM microscope tip and acting as an “atomic finger” in tactile reading.”

By moving this “atomic finger” back and forth along the surface they obtained height profiles corresponding to the precise positions of atoms and chemical bonds of the oligo-enediyne molecules studied. Recent advances in this microscopy technique have made it so precise that we can even distinguish the bond order between carbon atoms (single or double or triple bonds). On heating the surface supporting our molecules, they induced a chemical reaction that is closely related to “cyclisations”. Cyclisations, discovered by Berkeley Professor Bergman in the early 1970s, cause carbon atoms linked in chains (aromatic rings) to “fold up” into closed-ring formations. “The height profiles we recorded after the molecules react clearly show how new chemical bonds are formed and how atoms within the molecules rearrange to form new structures”, explained Dimas Oteyza. The results have been interpreted and analysed microscopically thanks to simulations carried out by Mr Rubio’s team.

Apart from achieving surprising visual confirmation of the microscopic mechanisms underlying theoretically predicted organic chemical reactions, this work has relevance in the manufacture of new, high-precision customised materials and electronic apparatus at a nanometric scale.

Irati Kortabitarte | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>