Scientists capture the speediest ever motion in a molecule
The fastest ever observations of protons moving within a molecule open a new window on fundamental processes in chemistry and biology, researchers report today in the journal Science.
Their capturing of the movements of the lightest and therefore speediest components of a molecule will allow scientists to study molecular behaviour previously too fast to be detected. It gives a new in-depth understanding of how molecules behave in chemical processes, providing opportunities for greater study and control of molecules, including the organic molecules that are the building blocks of life.
The high speed at which protons can travel during chemical reactions means their motion needs to be measured in units of time called attoseconds, with one attosecond equating to one billion-billionth of a second. The teams observation of proton motion with an accuracy of 100 attoseconds in hydrogen and methane molecules is the fastest ever recorded. Dr John Tisch of Imperial College London says:
"Slicing up a second into intervals as miniscule as 100 attoseconds, as our new technique enables us to do, is extremely hard to conceptualise. Its like chopping up the 630 million kilometres from here to Jupiter into pieces as wide as a human hair."
Professor Jon Marangos, Director of the Blackett Laboratory Laser Consortium at Imperial, says this new technique means scientists will now be able to measure and control the ultra-fast dynamics of molecules. He says:
"Control of this kind underpins an array of future technologies, such as control of chemical reactions, quantum computing and high brightness x-ray light sources for material processing. We now have a much clearer insight into what is happening within molecules and this allows us to carry out more stringent testing of theories of molecular structure and motion. This is likely to lead to improved methods of molecular synthesis and the nano-fabrication of a new generation of materials."
Lead author Dr Sarah Baker of Imperial College believes that the technique is also exciting because of its experimental simplicity. She says:
"We are very excited by these results, not only because we have watched motion occurring faster than was previously possible, but because we have achieved this using a compact and simple technique that will make such study accessible to scientists around the world."
To make this breakthrough, scientists used a specially built laser system capable of producing extremely brief pulses of light. This pulsed light has an oscillating electrical field that exerts a powerful force on the electrons surrounding the protons, repeatedly tearing them from the molecule and driving them back into it.
This process causes the electrons to carry a large amount of energy, which they release as an x-ray photon before returning to their original state. How bright this x-ray is depends on how far the protons move in the time between the electrons removal and return. The further the proton moves, the lower the intensity of the x-ray, allowing the team to measure how far a proton has moved during the electron oscillation period.
Abigail Smith | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...