Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > IBM Scientists First to Image the 'Anatomy' of a Molecule

Abstract:
Imaging individual atoms within a molecule has been a long-standing goal of surface microscopy

IBM Scientists First to Image the 'Anatomy' of a Molecule

Zurich, Switzerland | Posted on August 28th, 2009

IBM scientists have been able to image the "anatomy" -- or chemical structure -- inside a molecule with unprecedented resolution, using a complex technique known as noncontact atomic force microscopy.

(View video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnLRl_74BZs)

The results push the exploration of using molecules and atoms at the smallest scale and could greatly impact the field of nanotechnology, which seeks to understand and control some of the smallest objects known to mankind.

"Though not an exact comparison, if you think about how a doctor uses an x-ray to image bones and organs inside the human body, we are using the atomic force microscope to image the atomic structures that are the backbones of individual molecules," said IBM Researcher Gerhard Meyer. "Scanning probe techniques offer amazing potential for prototyping complex functional structures and for tailoring and studying their electronic and chemical properties on the atomic scale."

The team's current publication follows on the heels of another experiment published just two months ago in the June 12 issue of Science (Volume 324, Issue 5933, pp. 1428 - 1431) where IBM scientists measured the charge states of atoms using an AFM. These breakthroughs will open new possibilities for investigating how charge transmits through molecules or molecular networks. Understanding the charge distribution at the atomic scale is essential for building smaller, faster and more energy-efficient computing components than today's processors and memory devices. These components could one day contribute to IBM's vision of a smarter planet by helping instrument and interconnect the physical world.

As reported in the August 28 issue of Science magazine, IBM Research - Zurich scientists Leo Gross, Fabian Mohn, Nikolaj Moll and Gerhard Meyer, in collaboration with Peter Liljeroth of Utrecht University, used an AFM operated in an ultrahigh vacuum and at very low temperatures ( -268oC or - 451oF) to image the chemical structure of individual pentacene molecules. With their AFM, the IBM scientists, for the first time ever, were able to look through the electron cloud and see the atomic backbone of an individual molecule. While not a direct technological comparison, this is reminiscent of x-rays that pass through soft tissue to enable clear images of bones.

The tip that tipped the scale

The AFM uses a sharp metal tip to measure the tiny forces between the tip and the sample, such as a molecule, to create an image. In the present experiments, the molecule investigated was pentacene. Pentacene is an oblong organic molecule consisting of 22 carbon atoms and 14 hydrogen atoms measuring 1.4 nanometers in length. The spacing between neighboring carbon atoms is only 0.14 nanometers--roughly 1 million times smaller then the diameter of a grain of sand. In the experimental image, the hexagonal shapes of the five carbon rings as well as the carbon atoms in the molecule are clearly resolved. Even the positions of the hydrogen atoms of the molecule can be deduced from the image.

"The key to achieving atomic resolution was an atomically sharp and defined tip apex as well as the very high stability of the system," said IBM scientist Leo Gross. To image the chemical structure of a molecule with an AFM, it is necessary to operate in very close proximity to the molecule. The range, where chemical interactions give significant contributions to the forces, is less than a nanometer. To achieve this, the IBM scientists were required to increase the sensitivity of the tip and overcome a major limitation: Similar to the way two magnets would attract or repel each other when getting close, the molecules would easily be displaced by or attach to the tip when the tip was approached too closely--rendering further measurements impossible.

Gross added, "We prepared our tip by deliberately picking up single atoms and molecules and showed that it is the foremost tip atom or molecule that governs the contrast and resolution of our AFM measurements." A tip terminated with a carbon monoxide (CO) molecule yielded the optimum contrast at a tip height of approximately 0.5 nanometers above the molecule being imaged and--acting like a powerful magnifying glass--resolved the individual atoms within the pentacene molecule, revealing its exact atomic-scale chemical structure.

Furthermore, the scientists were able to derive a complete three-dimensional force map of the molecule investigated. "To obtain a complete force map the microscope needed to be highly stable, both mechanically and thermally, to ensure that both the tip of the AFM and the molecule remained unaltered during the more than 20 hours of data acquisition," says Fabian Mohn, who is working on his Ph.D. thesis at IBM Research - Zurich.

To corroborate the experimental findings and gain further insight into the exact nature of the imaging mechanism, IBM scientist Nikolaj Moll performed first-principles density functional theory calculations of the system investigated. He explains, "The calculations helped us understand what caused the atomic contrast. In fact, we found that its source was Pauli repulsion between the CO and the pentacene molecule." This repulsive force stems from a quantum mechanical effect called the Pauli exclusion principle. It states that two identical electrons can not approach each other too closely.

The scientific paper entitled "The Chemical Structure of a Molecule Resolved by Atomic Force Microscopy" by L. Gross, F. Mohn, N. Moll, P. Liljeroth, and G. Meyer, appears in Science, Volume 325, Issue 5944, pp. 1110 - 1114 (28 August 2009).


####

About IBM
Scientists have been striving to "see" and manipulate atoms and molecules to extend human knowledge and push the frontiers of manufacturing capabilities to the nanometer regime. IBM has been a pioneer in nanoscience and nanotechnology ever since the development of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 by IBM Fellows Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Research - Zurich. For this invention, which made it possible to image individual atoms and later on to manipulate them, Binnig and Rohrer were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. The AFM, an offspring of the STM, was invented by Binnig in 1986. The STM is widely regarded as the instrument that opened the door to the nanoworld. A new facility for world-class collaborative nanoscale research, the Nanoscale Exploratory Technology Laboratory, will open in 2011 on the campus of IBM Research - Zurich. The nanotech center is part of a strategic partnership in nanotechnology with ETH Zurich, one of Europe's premier technical universities.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Jenny Hunter
IBM

510-919-5320

Chris Sciacca
IBM Zurich

41-44 724 84 43

Nicole Herfurth
IBM Zurich

41-44 724 84 45

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Tiny bubbles provide tremendous propulsion in new microparticles research-Ben-Gurion U. June 21st, 2017

Enhanced photocatalytic activity by Cu2O nanoparticles integrated H2Ti3O7 nanotubes June 21st, 2017

Researchers developed nanoparticle based contrast agent for dual modal imaging of cancer June 21st, 2017

Oxford Instruments congratulates Lancaster University for inaugurating the IsoLab, built for studying quantum systems June 20th, 2017

Possible Futures

Tiny bubbles provide tremendous propulsion in new microparticles research-Ben-Gurion U. June 21st, 2017

Researchers developed nanoparticle based contrast agent for dual modal imaging of cancer June 21st, 2017

Oxford Instruments congratulates Lancaster University for inaugurating the IsoLab, built for studying quantum systems June 20th, 2017

Alloying materials of different structures offers new tool for controlling properties June 19th, 2017

Chip Technology

Alloying materials of different structures offers new tool for controlling properties June 19th, 2017

GLOBALFOUNDRIES®, ON Semiconductor Deliver the Industry’s Lowest Power Bluetooth® Low Energy SoC Family: 55nm LPx RF-enabled platform, with SST’s highly reliable embedded SuperFlash®, provides low power and cost for IoT and “Connected” Health and Wellness Devices June 19th, 2017

New prospects for universal memory -- high speed of RAM and the capacity of flash: Thin films created at MIPT could be the basis for future development of ReRAM June 17th, 2017

In a project funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, the physicist Serdar Sarıçiftçi investigates possible uses in electronics of the semiconductor properties of indigo pigment June 14th, 2017

Memory Technology

New prospects for universal memory -- high speed of RAM and the capacity of flash: Thin films created at MIPT could be the basis for future development of ReRAM June 17th, 2017

Geoffrey Beach: Drawn to explore magnetism: Materials researcher is working on the magnetic memory of the future April 25th, 2017

New ultrafast flexible and transparent memory devices could herald new era of electronics April 1st, 2017

Information storage with a nanoscale twist: Discovery of a novel rotational force inside magnetic vortices makes it easier to design ultrahigh capacity disk drives March 28th, 2017

Nanoelectronics

GLOBALFOUNDRIES on Track to Deliver Leading-Performance 7nm FinFET Technology: New 7LP technology offers 40 percent performance boost over 14nm FinFET June 13th, 2017

Seeing the invisible with a graphene-CMOS integrated device June 6th, 2017

IBM Research Alliance Builds New Transistor for 5nm Technology: Less than two years since announcing a 7nm test chip, scientists have achieved another breakthrough June 5th, 2017

Oddball enzyme provides easy path to synthetic biomaterials May 17th, 2017

Announcements

Tiny bubbles provide tremendous propulsion in new microparticles research-Ben-Gurion U. June 21st, 2017

Enhanced photocatalytic activity by Cu2O nanoparticles integrated H2Ti3O7 nanotubes June 21st, 2017

Researchers developed nanoparticle based contrast agent for dual modal imaging of cancer June 21st, 2017

Cambridge Nanotherm partners with Inabata for global sales and distribution June 20th, 2017

Tools

Researchers developed nanoparticle based contrast agent for dual modal imaging of cancer June 21st, 2017

Oxford Instruments congratulates Lancaster University for inaugurating the IsoLab, built for studying quantum systems June 20th, 2017

Changing the color of laser light on the femtosecond time scale: How BiCoO3 achieves second harmonic generation June 14th, 2017

Leti Announces Two New Tools for Improving Transportation Comfort, Safety and Efficiency: Wearable Device Measures Stress Responses for Travelers, Pilots and Truck Drivers, While Smartphone App Provides Transit Agencies Broad Data on Transport Modes June 13th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project