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Single-Bond-Resolved Images Catch Chemistry in Action

Images of a single oligo-enediyne molecule before (left panels) and after (right panels) thermal annealing reveal intricate chemical bonding rearrangements and provide powerful new insight into this chemical reaction. Images taken via non-contact AFM (middle row) show bonding geometry at much higher spatial resolution than STM images (top row).

Berkeley Lab researchers have taken the first single-bond-resolved images of individual organic molecules immediately before and after they undergo a complex chemical reaction. The results provide powerful new insights into organic chemical reactions, which underlie biology and are critically important to industrial processes such as liquid fuel production.

  Our current experimental understanding of organic reactions relies mostly on indirect measurements averaged over enormous numbers of molecules. Here, however, the scientists obtained exquisitely detailed images of single oligo-enediyne molecules on a flat silver surface by using non-contact atomic force microscopy with a single carbon monoxide molecule for a probe tip. The image resolution is so fine that one can distinguish single, double, and triple bonds between carbon atoms. By imaging molecules immediately before and after a thermally-induced organic reaction, the team revealed how new chemical bonds are formed and how atoms within the molecules rearrange into new product structures.  

In addition to providing a striking visual confirmation of the microscopic mechanisms underlying predicted organic chemical reactions, this work will help scientists develop new functional materials and nanometer-scale electronic devices.

Read the press release »  

“Direct Imaging of Covalent Bond Structure in Single-Molecule Chemical Reactions,” Dimas G. de Oteyza, Patrick Gorman, Yen-Chia Chen, Sebastian Wickenburg, Alexander Riss, Duncan J. Mowbray, Grisha Etkin, Zahra Pedramrazi, Hsin- Zon Tsai, Angel Rubio, Michael F. Crommie, and Felix R. Fischer, Science 340, 1434-1437 (2013).   DOI: 10.1126/science.1238187