For the First Time, Scientists Capture the Chemical Bonds between Atoms Forming and Breaking

The team used transmission electron microscopy to achieve this impressive video.
Loukia Papadopoulos

For the first time ever, a research team from the UK and Germany led by Professor Ute Kaiser, head of the Electron Microscopy of Materials Science in the University of Ulm, and Professor Andrei Khlobystov in the School of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham have managed to record on video two rhenium bonding and then breaking their bonds.

The team used transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to achieve this impressive task. "Nanotubes help us catch atoms or molecules, and to position them exactly where we want. In this case we trapped a pair of rhenium (Re) atoms bonded together to form Re2. Because rhenium has a high atomic number it is easier to see in TEM than lighter elements, allowing us to identify each metal atom as a dark dot," said Khlobystov in a statement.

"As we imaged these diatomic molecules by the state of the art chromatic and spherical aberration corrected SALVE TEM, we observed the atomic-scale dynamics of Re2 adsorbed on the graphitic lattice of the nanotube and discovered that the bond length changes in Re2 in a series of discrete steps," added Kaiser.

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