Researchers at Ohio State University have captured images of an atom moving within a molecule for the first time ever, using an ultrafast laser and an interesting new technique.
Pulses from the laser were used to repeatedly knock a single electron out of its natural orbit. As the electron fell back into the molecule, it provided the necessary illumination for imaging the molecule, functioning much like a camera's flash bulb. Louis DiMauro, principal investigator in the experiment and professor of physics at the university, believes that by further adjusting the laser, scientists can become able to control chemical reactions on the atomic level.
The molecules chosen for this experiment were nitrogen and oxygen ones, as these structures are so well understood by scientists. The hope is to be able to study chemical reactions in more complex molecules, like proteins, in the future.
Image by Chemitorium on Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.Tweet