Ever since it was proposed that atoms are building blocks of the world, scientists have been trying to understand how and why they bond to each other. Be it a molecule (which is a group of atoms joined together in a particular fashion), or a block of material or a whole living organism, ultimately, everything is controlled by the way atoms bond, and the way bonds break.
The challenge is that lengths of chemical bonds are between 0.1 – 0.3 nm, about half a million times smaller than the width of a human hair, making direct imaging of bonding between a pair of atoms difficult. Advanced microscopy methods, such as atomic force microscopy (AFM) or scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM), can resolve atomic positions and measure bond lengths directly, but filming chemical bonds to break or to form, with spatiotemporal continuity, in real time, still remains one of the greatest challenges of science.
This challenge has been met by a research team from the UK and Germany led by Professor Ute Kaiser, head of the Electron Microscopy of Materials Science in the University of Ulm, and Professor Andrei Khlobystov in the School of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham they have published ‘Imaging an unsupported metal-metal bond in dirhenium molecules at the atomic scale’ in Science Advances, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science covering all aspects of scientific endeavour.
Image Credit: Nottingham University
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