26 March 2018 Molecular selfies featured by the Royal Society of Chemistry

Molecular Selfie

Atomic-scale kinematic coincidence imaging of bond breaking. The Royal Society of Chemistry has recently published a thorough review article, entitled “Seeing is Believing” on the development and evolution of imaging techniques that have searched to find a way of seeing, at an atomic scale, how molecules form, bond and break up.

Among the few highlighted approaches, the author highlighted ICFO’s study, published last year in Science, in which researchers from the Attoscience and Ultrafast Optics Group led by ICREA Prof at ICFO Jens Biegert, in collaboration with researchers from the USA, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, reported on the imaging of molecular bond breakup in acetylene (C2H2) just 9 fs (1 femtosecond = 1 millionth of a billionth of a second) after triggering breakup.

The author emphasized ICFO’s study as one of the experiments that used ultrafast laser sources to peek at gas phase reactions in their early stages. More importantly, using laser-induced electron diffraction (LIED), the team at ICFO was able to track all of the individual atoms of the isolated acetylene molecule with a spatial resolution as small as 0.05 Ångström – less than the width of an individual atom – and with a temporal resolution of 0.6 femtoseconds. What’s more, they were able to trigger the breakup of only one of the bonds of the molecule and see how one proton leaves the molecule.

Their method achieved for the first time the combined space and time resolution required in order to take snapshots of molecular dynamics without missing any of its events, and, as the author mentions in the story, the team is eager to try it out on other molecular systems such as chemical catalysts and bio-relevant systems.