If you've ever taken a chemistry class, you have seen plenty of diagrams of molecules. If you made it to organic chemistry, you fiddled with one of the tinker-toy-like molecule kits, building your own hydrocarbons and amino acids (I probably still have my kit somewhere). But we take it for granted that the diagrams and models are correct; no one could photograph a molecule. Until now.
The picture above of a pentacene molecule was created by researchers from IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory and Utrecht University using a scanning tunneling microscope modified with a single molecule of carbon monoxide on its tip. (Their study appeared in last week's Science.) The image is not so much a photograph as a map of the molecule's energy, but each of the five benzene rings that make up the molecule can be seen.
Image courtesy of IBM Research-Zurich.
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