Photographing Molecules

A Leading Edge Camera for Molecules – Max Planck researchers in Heidelberger film fast molecular motion for the first time: ‘Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg have visualised vibration and rotation in the nuclei of a hydrogen molecule as a quantum mechanical wave packet. What is more, this has been achieved on an extremely short spatio-temporal scale. They “photographed” the molecule using intensive, ultrashort laser pulses at different points in time and compiled a film from the separate images. This allowed them to visualise the quantum mechanical wave pattern of the vibrating and rotating molecule (Physical Review Letters, Online-Edition, November 6, 2006).
Cameras and light microscopes are not viable options when photographing molecules: a hydrogen molecule is around 5,000 times smaller than the wavelength of visible light and it is therefore not possible to create an optical image of these molecules. Instead, for some time Max Planck researchers have been using pump-probe technology to make high-resolution and ultrahigh-speed images. The molecules are first “bumped” with a “pump” laser pulse and then after a specific time measured with a “probe” laser pulse.’ [Read the whole article]

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