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Detailed Images Show Intra-Molecular Bonds

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the pretty-pictures dept.

IBM 53

Techmeology writes "A team from IBM in Zurich has published images of molecules that are detailed enough to show the lengths of atomic bonds. 'The IBM team's innovation to create the first single molecule picture, of a molecule called pentacene, was to use the tip to pick up a single, small molecule made up of a carbon and an oxygen atom. This carbon monoxide molecule effectively acts as a record needle, probing with unprecedented accuracy the very surfaces of atoms. It is difficult to overstate what precision measurements these are. The experiments must be isolated from any kind of vibration coming from within the laboratory or even its surroundings. They are carried out at a scale so small that room temperature induces wigglings of the AFM's constituent molecules that would blur the images, so the apparatus is kept at a cool -268C.' This allows an analysis of imperfections in the molecular structure (abstract). The team plans to use the method to examine molecules of graphene."

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fristy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347025)

frostay, homes

Racists! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347029)

The team, which included French and Spanish collaborators, used a variant of a technique called atomic force microscopy, or AFM.

What, no team from Africa? Color me astonished!

Re:Racists! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347063)

they're too busy giving children aids

to aid a syndrome (1)

mynameiskhan (2689067) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347297)

Goodness gracious, it is not AIDS.

Re:Racists! (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347359)

It seems that there were no Americans or Japanese on board either. I guess that must mean that they are as stupid as the Africans!

wrong paper (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347077)

the writeup describes an earlier paper, not the recent one that was in Science. they previously showed that you can look at planar molecules like pentacene with afm, here they showed that you can see minor differences in the bond lengths to distinguish single/double bonds.

Re:wrong paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347265)

I'm just imprssed they can do it.

But what REALLY impresses me is Linus Paulings brilliance. He was the one, IIRC my science history, who came up with the modelling of the electon shells and molecules. It's kind of a pitty that he's not mentioned in the same breath as Einstein or Newton when it comes to great scientists.

Re:wrong paper (5, Insightful)

FrangoAssado (561740) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347779)

Pauling is really great, I agree that he should be more well-known (I, myself, am partial to Dirac, who predicted the existence of anti-matter out of pure math). But you have to realize that Newton and (maybe to a lesser degree) Einstein contributions were of another class.

Newton took Galileo's ideas -- that things tend to keep moving if they're left alone -- and built a whole mathematical theory on top of that, inventing calculus in the process. In a sense, it was the beginning of what we today call Physics.

Einstein was the first to notice (and convinced everyone) that the Lorentz transformation is not just a mathematical trick, it's the very way the space and time works. This itself was not that impressive, he was just giving a "new spin" on what everyone had already observed. But then he went on to show that the "right way" to understand gravity is by noting that it's just a side-effect of mass bending the space and time -- this has lots of consequences that were unknown at the time, like gravity bending light, gravity making time pass at different rates, and a lot other stuff, all of which turned out to be right.

Quantum Mechanics and its implications (like the electron shell), on the other hand, were discovered bit by bit by a lot of different people. That's why no one is hugely famous for it (even though there are certainly big names like Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Born, Schrodinger, Dirac, Pauli, etc.).

Re:wrong paper (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41348311)

I was disappointed to not see Feynman in that list. With QED and the Feynman diagrams making the whole group you just mentioned fall off their seats in rage, he is a hugely important figure.

Re:wrong paper (4, Informative)

FrangoAssado (561740) | more than 2 years ago | (#41348397)

True. I was thinking of the earlier developments, but you're absolutely right that Feynman belongs there.

I also forgot de Broglie.

Bonds (5, Funny)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347081)

James Bonds

Re:Bonds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347101)

terrible joke

you should feel really bad about that

Re:Bonds (1)

game kid (805301) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347257)

One martini please, neither shaken nor stirred.

Re:Bonds (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 2 years ago | (#41348049)

Schrodinger's Triple Martini - until you drink it you don't know if it's made with an olive or lemon peel, gin or vodka, and shaken or stirred.

Amazing invention (1, Funny)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347141)

Using this technology we will be able to produce nanomaterials of unprecedented strength, bringing us one step closer to the space elevator.

Re:Amazing invention (4, Informative)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347325)

Well, it brings us a small step closer anyway. There's a world of difference between "looking" at something and building it, though the technology to manipulate the probe may translate.

As for a space elevator we still need to discover a material strong enough before manufacturing it becomes a serious consideration, at least for the traditional "beanstalk past geostationary" style. Even multiwalled carbon nanotubes are barely strong enough to support their own weight in such a configuration, and you probably want at *least* a 2x-3x safety factor, and we'll likely need to come up with something pretty exotic to top the strength of a C-C bond.

Re:Amazing invention (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#41348953)

Well tunnel microscopes can also be used for building stuff, perhaps the same method could translate to these as well. And a material only needs to be able to support its own strength and a bit more: after that, safety is just a matter of thickness.

Re:Amazing invention (1)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352345)

It's not quite so simple - both weight and strength scale with the cross-sectional area, so if it can support say 10% more than its own weight then no matter how thick you make it it will still only support 10% more than its own weight. And a 10% safety factor is completely unacceptable on an engineering product of this scale - the cable that could wrap around the world if it broke near geosationary, where the load would be at its greatest.

Re:Amazing invention (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#41349551)

As for a space elevator we still need to discover a material strong enough before manufacturing it becomes a serious consideration,

Carbon nanotubes are close... But graphene is better, and more than strong enough to make a space elevator tether a real possibilty.

Re:Amazing invention (1)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#41352383)

Do you have a source for this assertion? Everything I've seen suggests that while graphene is far better at lending it's strength to composite materials the substance itself has roughly the same strength, which is to be expected, nanotubes are after all essentially rolled-up lengths of graphene. And composite materials aren't really relevant in this situation unless the strength:mass ratio exceeds that of the pure material.

Re:Amazing invention (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#41360425)

I briefly read about the topic over a year ago. It's not my field, and I don't recall the source at all.

With a quick search, the only thing paper I was able to find (who's summary sounds remotely close) is this one: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/321/5887/385 [sciencemag.org]

Re:Amazing invention (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#41348017)

Easily. Print them atom by atom. Just don't expect it to be fast.

Re:Amazing invention (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 2 years ago | (#41349989)

Also for working out what bonds make for good superconductors. And, when we can investigate large enough molecules, understanding the structures of cell markers so that we can custom design medicines.

I used to think that viewing atomic bonds was technically impossibe, because what would you use to see the bonds with? Yet here it is.

Totally agree: amazing invention.

Prior art (3, Funny)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347223)

The scientists better get those molecule pictures copyrighted quickly before the MPAA sues them for infringement.

Re:Prior art (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347243)

...shaped like the Olympic rings...

It'll be the IOC, not the MPAA that will nail them.

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41348891)

>...shaped like the Olympic® rings...
>
>It'll be the IOC, not the MPAA that will nail them.

FTFY

What this SHOULD be used for... (1, Offtopic)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347241)


This is actually good science.

Chiropractic researchers and interested neurologists should use this technology to study the subtle, yet catastrophic, micro-subluxations which are a major cause of human suffering. It is a well known fact that if you do not receive regular chiropractic adjustments, the chances of you having health-damanging subluxations are nearly 100%.

D.D. Palmer trained the first Chiropractors to detect and eliminate such scourges. It's nice to see science catching up with Chiropractic circa 1895!

Re:What this SHOULD be used for... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347423)

Heyyyy!

Welcome back, Dr. Bob!! But our memory isn't as short as you think it might be..

Re:What this SHOULD be used for... (3, Funny)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347431)

I was on a lengthy life-saving mission as part of Chiropractors Without Borders . Whatever you are referring to is best forgotten.

Wait a minute! I know you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41353463)

You're Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!... I think you're the greatest, but my dad says you don't work hard enough on defense. And he says that lots of times, you don't even run down court. And that you don't really try... except during the playoffs.

Spheres (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347271)

Interesting... first I thought molecules indeed looked like a bunch of spheres, just like in the drawings.

Then I realized that since an atoms location is more like a statistical function than an actual position, that molecules probably look nothing like those drawings in reality.

But now here's a photo of a molecule and it looks like a bunch of spheres? Who would have thought!

Re:Spheres (4, Informative)

DeeEff (2370332) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347467)

Probabilistically speaking, the position of electrons is probably what results in a sphere shape. Electrons move too fast to be in any single position at any point in time (at least, deterministically), so it appears as a spherical/elliptical cloud around the nucleus at a given energy level.

Re:Spheres (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347907)

"Electrons move too fast to be in any single position at any point in time (at least, deterministically), so it appears as a spherical/elliptical cloud around the nucleus at a given energy level."

Well, the electrons don't really move at all. They are in stationary states called orbitals.

The cloud is not just "apparent" but the real standing probability wave.

For example, the hydrogen atom has a single electron whose cloud is symmetrical in every direction (spherical, if you will). If the electron were orbiting the nucleus, the cloud and the atom would be shaped like a disc.

Re:Spheres (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41348603)

I wonder if it's possible that electrons don't really even exist as small, spherical particles that orbit the nucleus, as we're taught in school, but instead are something else entirely, and it's just convenient for us to model them as such.

Re:Spheres (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41348675)

Unfortunately, you were taught wrongly in school.

Electrons could be viewed as occupying the entire universe but they will always interact at a random point. The probability distribution of the random point is not equal everywhere but is determined by the probability wave.

Nice (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347397)

Nice. AFMs have been imaging atoms for about two decades (and yes, they do look like spheres). Being able to see intermolecular bonds is a big step forward.

AFMs are amusing. The idea is so simple - mechanically scan atoms with a really sharp point. Everyone had assumed that you'd have to scan atoms with electron beams (as with electron microscopes) or X-rays (as with X-ray diffraction), using some particle much smaller than the atoms being scanned. Then Quate and Gerber figured out how to scan atoms mechanically. Which sounds like a really silly idea, but works.

An AFM works like a mechanical record player. It's a pointy needle on a positioner made using piezoelectric elements. Raster scan signals are applied to the positioners to get a classic TV-type scan, and the third axis has its position measured and is servoed until the point touches the sample. Height measurements come out. Basic AFMs aren't very complicated or very big.

It took a surprisingly long time to come up with this idea. It was invented in 1986. One probably could have been built in 1946, and certainly in 1966.

Re:Nice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347669)

You're right partially, but AFMs don't quite work that way. The mechanical "probe" scrapes the surface (only one atom in contact usually), but the position is not measured using piezos. Piezoelectric materials move the base below the sample to atomic accuracy, but the position of the cantilever is measured by reflecting a laser off the cantilever to a sensor. The sensor is split in four quandrants and measures the deflection of the cantilever.

Re:Nice (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#41348037)

This rather surprised me. Given that carbon has p-orbitals, and that those orbitals should be locked into position by being used to bond adjacent atoms, I'd have thought the non-spherical orbitals to be visible. I concude that even A-level chemistry textbooks lie.

Re:Nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41352183)

Well, I guess they do if they don't teach about the electron distribution of pi-orbitals.

Re:Nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41357099)

This rather surprised me. Given that carbon has p-orbitals, and that those orbitals should be locked into position by being used to bond adjacent atoms, I'd have thought the non-spherical orbitals to be visible. I concude that even A-level chemistry textbooks lie.

This is an aromatic molecule, so no textbook p orbitals, but rather resonant rings. Remember benzene? It's just like that.

Re:Nice (1)

iiiears (987462) | more than 2 years ago | (#41348217)

Man builds electron microscope...in his garage.

Finally! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347407)

The technology is available to photograph a /. readers wang.

Basic Research (4, Interesting)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 2 years ago | (#41347433)

It is is good to see this kind of basic research is still being done. Even as Hewlett Packard has gutted its research capabilities and looks set to suit to its corporate grave, blue-chip IBM shows that it still understands the need for discovery. Though it is perhaps indicative that this team is decidedly not American...

Re:Basic Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347551)

I wondered about that too. In the eighties my father received a magazine called "IBM journal of research and development" and it was full of research papers about topics like this.
I thought "well, they are making computers, perhaps they are researching for the next generation of computers that will be smaller and faster than today".

But now, is IBM developing anything? I think everything has been sold or outsourced.
Why do they still do research?

Re:Basic Research (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347693)

I worked in IBM until recently (I was there for 4 years). Their R&D teams that do indeed do computer science research (databases, AI, server design), but most of the teams focus on fundamental research. Chip fab and storage (which is mostly fundamental physics & chemistry research) is one where they spend a lot. They also spend a lot of money in emerging tech (Solar panels, road traffic management, lot other strange stuff). I dont see many products coming out these, and I have no idea why they do this.

If I had to guess this is part of Chip fab research division (or the storage division)

Re:Basic Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41348261)

Ok I thought they sold their chip and storage fabrication long ago and whats left over is merely a brand name for a services company.

Re:Basic Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347705)

Do you know what the "I" in IBM stands for? It's truly a worldwide company; just because the lab is in Zurich doesn't mean they didn't collaborate with researchers in many other countries - probably including the US. Unfortunately if you hire them to do anything software related you'll get third-world contractors at first world prices.

Re:Basic Research (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41347919)

Yes but IBM Zurich is quite special, even within IBM. Funding scientists in Switzerland is extremely expensive, perhaps the most expensive place in the world to perform basic research. There is no global minimal salary, but in many activity branches the minimum salary for a full time job is a bit above SF3000 (over $3000). You have to take out some contributions, taxes, and pay your health insurance, but even after that, you are left with a considerable amount of dough.

However, IBM Zurich has had impressive results: is the only place that won two Nobel prizes in a row (in the mid-eighties IIRC).

Chemistry 007 (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41348087)

Bond. Intermolecular Bond.

Re:Chemistry 007 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41348169)

Bond. Intermolecular Bond.

Before posting on Slashdot, you should at least understand the difference betwixt "intra" and "inter".

Re:Chemistry 007 (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | more than 2 years ago | (#41349189)

Your meme is bad, and you should feel bad

Thanks IBM (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#41350261)

Thanks IBM for being in the forefront and publishing your research.

One thing though. I haven't read the paper, but are these results really reproducible today by other teams? Or is it something that only can bee seen with one particluar instrument as of today?

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