Saturday, August 29, 2009

New Scientist - Microscopes zoom in on molecules at last

a geeky science item, Philbin?

here goes, and it's a real sexy one...



PENTACENE, we've all heard of it, right; an organic molecule consisting of five benzine rings.

Leo Gross and his team at IBM in Zurich, Switzerland, got these pictures of pentacene using a technique called atomic force microscopy (AFM) which measures the attractive force between atoms. The image is created by bumping the probe over the atoms of the molecule – much in the way we might feel our way around in a dark bedroom.

One key breakthrough was finding a way to stop the microscope's tip from sticking to the fragile pentacene molecule because of attraction due to electrostatic and Van der Waals forces. The team achieved this by fixing a single carbon monoxide molecule to the end of the probe so that only one atom of relatively inactive oxygen came into contact with the pentacene.

Read the meat of the article at New Scientist.

The way the scope works, a needle-point that measures forces between atoms, it's unlikely that this technique will be used for anything other than relatively FLAT molecules, IMHO. Unless they devise a 'bendy needle' or are able to somehow 'thread a needle through' the complex 3-dimensional molecules.

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