Molecular portrait

Using techniques pioneered by IBM Research Zurich, this is the first ever AFM image of a single molecule. The most detailed single image of a pentacene molecule you’ll ever see, in fact.

Seriously, I’m amazed. I had no idea atomic force microscopy could be this powerful. The researchers have apparently achieved this stunning resolution by coating the tip of their microscope probe with carbon monoxide. I’m a little hazy on the details, to be honest, as I haven’t had a chance to read much about it just yet.

The most amazing part if that you can actually see the chemical bonds in the molecule, as regions of electron density. You can even see the bonds to the peripheral hydrogen atoms. Interestingly, there seems to be a lot more electron density on the two end rings of the molecule. This seems to fit quite well with what we know about pentacene. As aromatic molecules go, it isn’t really very aromatic at all. Its electrons aren’t as delocalised as many others. As a result, chemical reactants tend to attack the centre of the molecule, where the bonds are weakest.

Source: BBC Science and Environment

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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