Scientists capture first images of molecules before and after reaction

From UC Berkeley News Center:

Molecule_before_afterEvery chemist’s dream – to snap an atomic-scale picture of a chemical before and after it reacts – has now come true, thanks to a new technique developed by chemists and physicists at the University of California, Berkeley. Using a state-of-the-art atomic force microscope, the scientists have taken the first atom-by-atom pictures, including images of the chemical bonds between atoms, clearly depicting how a molecule’s structure changed during a reaction. Until now, scientists have only been able to infer this type of information from spectroscopic analysis. “Even though I use these molecules on a day to day basis, actually being able to see these pictures blew me away. Wow!” said lead researcher Felix Fischer, UC Berkeley assistant professor of chemistry. “This was what my teachers used to say that you would never be able to actually see, and now we have it here.”

The ability to image molecular reactions in this way will help not only chemistry students as they study chemical structures and reactions, but will also show chemists for the first time the products of their reactions and help them fine-tune the reactions to get the products they want. Fischer, along with collaborator Michael Crommie, a UC Berkeley professor of physics, captured these images with the goal of building new graphene nanostructures, a hot area of research today for materials scientists because of their potential application in next-generation computers.

More here.