Ohio State University and Kansas State University researchers have captured the first-ever images of atoms moving in a molecule. They used a novel technique that turns one of the molecules own electrons into a kind of flash bulb. Image courtesy of Cosmin Blaga, Ohio State University.
The technique has yielded a new way of imaging molecules. The images were snapped using an ultrafast laser, to knock a single electron outside of the molecules outer shell.
This electron, having been knocked out of its proper place, comes crashing back into the molecule, and in doing so it provides the kind of illumination the researchers need to image the molecule itself.
Principal investigator Louis DiMauro of Ohio State University said that the feat marks a first step toward not only observing chemical reactions, but also controlling them on an atomic scale.
“Through these experiments, we realized that we can control the quantum trajectory of the electron when it comes back to the molecule, by adjusting the laser that launches it,” said DiMauro, who is a professor of physics at Ohio State. “The next step will be to see if we can steer the electron in just the right way to actually control a chemical reaction.”