Forget macrophotography. Nanophotography is pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible to record, as scientists have, for the first time, captured incredible footage of previously unseen physical processes.
Using carbon nanotubes and transmission electron microscopy, scientists at the University of Nottingham were able to record two atoms of Rhenium as they danced about during the bonding process. Rather than depicting the bonding process in animation or 3D modeling, researchers created an 18-second video, in which you can see two dark dots circling each other, bonding, moving apart, and bonding again.
To capture this process, researchers beamed electrons through a nanotube and detected them on the other side, allowing them to observe the activity happening inside the tube nearly in real-time.
Transmission electron microscopy operates on the same basic principles as light microscopy, but uses electrons instead of light. As explained by the University of Warwick: “because the wavelength of electrons is much smaller than that of light, the optimal resolution attainable for transmission electron microscopy images is many orders of magnitude better than that from a light microscope.”
The impossibly high resolution of these images allows researchers to better understand the dynamics between the molecules as they form, break, and reform bonds.
It’s quite a leap forward from the first moving images captured in 1888. What do you think about seeing atoms bond for the first time? Drop a comment below and let us know.
Lead image courtesy of the University of Nottingham