Atomic Force Microscope

If you didn’t get at least a little squeee from that headline, you’re a dane.

Researchers with IBM have used an atomic force microscope to photograph a single molecule.


If you think about how a doctor uses an X-ray to image bones and organs inside the human body, we are using the atomic force microscope to image the atomic structures that are the backbones of individual molecules,’ said IBM researcher Gerhard Meyer.

The team from IBM Research Zurich said the results could have a huge impact of the field of nanotechnology, which seeks to understand and control some of the smallest objects known to mankind.

The AFM uses a sharp metal tip that acts like a tuning fork to measure the tiny forces between the tip and the molecule. This requires great precision as the tip moves within a nanometer of the sample.

‘Above the skeleton of the molecular backbone (of the pentacene) you get a different detuning than above the surface the molecule is lying on,’ Mr Gross said.

This detuning is then measured and converted into an image.

To stop the tip from absorbing the pentacene molecule, the researchers replaced the metal with a single molecule of carbon monoxide. This was found to be more stable and created weaker electrostatic attractions with the pentacene, creating a higher resolution image.

Damn, I love living in the future.

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