Tiny Tech #32: Chemical bonding on video

Today from the world of Tiny Tech:

Chemical bonds are small, so small in fact that we can’t see them with the most powerful optical microscopes. That’s because the wavelength of visible light is about 400 times larger than the usual bond length. That’s where electrons come in. Electrons are wave-like particles that are tiny, just like bonds, and can be used instead of light. When the sample is thin enough, electrons travel through the material and are collected on the other side by a detector that produces an image.

Researchers have used this technique to record the first video of a chemical bond between two atoms being broken and then formed again. The video shows two bonded rhenium atoms dancing around on the surface of a carbon nanotube. The pair gets farther and farther away from one another until they suddenly appear as two individual atoms, only to come back together, joining in a chemical bond.

Eventually, it may be that if scientists want to better understand a chemical reaction, all they will need to do is simply record a video of it, because as the saying goes: seeing is believing.

Tiny Tech is made possible by the National Science Foundation and WUFT.  To learn more about Tiny Tech, go to tinytechradio.org.

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