Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers capture first-ever image of two atoms forming a molecule

Date:
March 7, 2012
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
Using a new ultrafast camera, researchers have recorded the first real-time image of two atoms vibrating in a molecule. Key to the experiment is the researchers' use of the energy of a molecule's own electron as a kind of "flash bulb" to illuminate the molecular motion.

Researchers at Ohio State University and Kansas State University have captured the first-ever images of atoms moving in a molecule. Shown here is molecular nitrogen. The researchers used an ultrafast laser to knock one electron from the molecule, and recorded the diffraction pattern that was created when the electron scattered off the molecule. The image highlights any changes the molecule went through during the time between laser pulses: one quadrillionth of a second. The constituent atoms' movement is shown as a measure of increasing angular momentum, on a scale from dark blue to pink, with pink showing the region of greatest momentum.
Credit: Image courtesy of Cosmin Blaga, Ohio State University.

Researchers have recorded the first-ever image of two atoms bonding together to form a molecule.

Related Articles


Key to the experiment, which appears in the journal Nature, is the researchers' use of the energy of a single electron as a kind of "flash bulb" to illuminate the reaction.

The team used ultrafast laser pulses to knock one electron out of its natural orbit in one of the atoms, just as the two atoms were bonding together. When the electron fell back into place, it emitted an energy signal that scattered around the newly forming molecule as a flash of light would scatter around an object, or ripples would scatter in a pond.

Principal investigator Louis DiMauro of Ohio State University said that the feat marks a first step toward not only observing chemical reactions, but also controlling them on an atomic scale.

"Through these experiments, we realized that we can control the trajectory of the electron when it comes back to the molecule, by adjusting the orientation of the laser that launches it," said DiMauro, who is a professor of physics at Ohio State. "The next step will be to see if we can hit the electron in just the right way to actually control a chemical reaction."

A more common imaging technique involves shooting a molecule with an electron beam, bombarding it with millions of electrons per second. The researchers deemed the new single-electron approach more reliable, based on theoretical developments by the paper's coauthors at Kansas State University.

"If we shot an electron beam from outside the molecule, there would only be a certain probability that one of the electrons would scatter off the molecule," explained Ohio State postdoctoral researcher Cosmin Blaga. "But in this case, when we use a laser to launch an electron from inside the molecule we are studying, we have a 100 percent probability that it will fall back into the molecule and scatter."

The technique, called laser induced electron diffraction (LIED), is commonly used in surface science to study solid materials. This is the first time anyone has used LIED to study a single molecule as it formed.

The molecules the researchers chose to study were simple ones: they brought two nitrogen atoms together to form molecular nitrogen, or N2, then repeated the experiment with two oxygen atoms forming molecular oxygen, or O2. N2 and O2 are common atmospheric gases, and scientists already know every detail of how they form, so these two very basic reactions made good test cases for the LIED technique.

In each case, the researchers hit the forming molecule with laser light pulses of 50 femtoseconds, or quadrillionths of a second. They were able to knock a single electron out of the outer shell of one of the constituent atoms and detect the energy signal of the electron as it fell back into the molecule.

DiMauro and Blaga likened the electron signal to the diffraction pattern that light forms when it passes through slits. Given only the diffraction pattern, scientists can reconstruct the size and shape of the slits. In this case, given the diffraction pattern of the electron, the physicists reconstructed the size and shape of the molecule -- that is, the locations of the constituent atoms' nuclei and the electron shells orbiting them.

The resulting 3D image marks the first image ever recorded of bonds forming in a molecule.

Beyond its potential for controlling chemical reactions, the technique offers a new tool to study the structure and dynamics of matter, Blaga said. "Ultimately, we want to really understand how chemical reactions take place. So, long-term, there would be applications in materials science and even chemical manufacture."

"You could use this to study individual atoms," DiMauro added, "but it's safe to say that we won't learn anything new from an atomic physics standpoint. The greater impact to science will come when we can study reactions between more complex molecules. Looking at two atoms -- that's a long way from studying a more interesting molecule like a protein."

Coauthors on the paper included Anthony DiChiara, Emily Sistrunk, Kaikai Zhang, Pierre Agostini, and Terry A. Miller of Ohio State; and C.D. Lin of Kansas State. Coauthor Junliang Xu pursued the theoretical side of this research to earn his doctorate at Kansas State, and will soon join DiMauro's lab as a postdoctoral researcher.

Funding came from the U.S. Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences Program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cosmin I. Blaga, Junliang Xu, Anthony D. DiChiara, Emily Sistrunk, Kaikai Zhang, Pierre Agostini, Terry A. Miller, Louis F. DiMauro, C. D. Lin. Imaging ultrafast molecular dynamics with laser-induced electron diffraction. Nature, 2012; 483 (7388): 194 DOI: 10.1038/nature10820

Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "Researchers capture first-ever image of two atoms forming a molecule." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307132216.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2012, March 7). Researchers capture first-ever image of two atoms forming a molecule. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307132216.htm
Ohio State University. "Researchers capture first-ever image of two atoms forming a molecule." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307132216.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

3D Printed Instruments Make Sweet Music in Sweden

3D Printed Instruments Make Sweet Music in Sweden

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Students from Lund University's Malmo Academy of Music are believed to be the world's first band to all use 3D printed instruments. The guitar, bass guitar, keyboard and drums were built by Olaf Diegel, professor of product development, who says 3D printing allows musicians to design an instrument to their exact specifications. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) Inspired by the way a chameleon changes its colour to disguise itself; scientists in Poland want to replace traditional camouflage paint with thousands of electrochromic plates that will continuously change colour to blend with its surroundings. The first PL-01 concept tank prototype will be tested within a few years, with scientists predicting that a similar technology could even be woven into the fabric of a soldiers' clothing making them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) Strong jet demand has pushed Boeing to raise its profit forecast for the third time, but analysts were disappointed by its small cash flow. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) As more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices are reaching consumers, developers are busy connecting them together as part of the Internet of Things. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins