Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Captured: The First-Ever Images of Atoms Moving Inside a Molecule

Captured: The First-Ever Images of Atoms Moving Inside a Molecule: The images were snapped using an ultrafast laser, which fired 50 femtosecond (a femtosecond is a quadrillionth of a second) pulses at the molecule to knock a single electron outside of the molecules outer shell. This electron, having been knocked out of its proper place, comes crashing back into the molecule, and in doing so it provides the kind of illumination the researchers need to image the molecule itself.
By measuring the scattered signal of the electron as it collides with the molecule, they were able to reconstruct the inner workings of the molecule, including things like the positions of the atoms nuclei. Moreover, because there is a very short lag between when the electron is knocked out and when it comes crashing back, the researchers are able to capture the movement of the atoms within that period, essentially allowing them to make a frame-by-frame film of atomic motion within molecules.

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