Scientists have created and imaged the smallest possible five-ringed structure – about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair – and you’ll probably recognise its shape.
A collaboration between the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the University of Warwick and IBM Research – Zurich has allowed the scientists to bring a single molecule to life in a picture, using a combination of clever synthetic chemistry and state-of-the-art imaging techniques.
“The key to achieving atomic resolution was an atomically sharp and defined tip apex as well as the very high stability of the system,” explains IBM scientist Dr. Leo Gross. “We prepared our tip by deliberately picking up single atoms and molecules and showed that it is the foremost tip atom or molecule that governs the contrast and resolution of our AFM measurements.
“One particular challenge for Dr. Gross and the team was that they had to abstract a single hydrogen atom from olympicene. This is not something that can be done with a pair of tweezers — when you consider that olympicene is only 1.2 nanometers wide, or 100,000 times thinner than a human hair, it is an impressive feat.
The technique was first published by IBM scientists in Science in 2009.
Read on in this blog post from Antony Williams, Royal Society of Chemistry