IBM has announced its latest innovation: the ability to view the individual reactions of individual molecules, all with the help of atomic microscopy.
Along with researchers at the University of Santiago de Compostela and CiSQUS, the IBM scientists were able to study and view a molecular reaction known as Bergman cyclization, in which a thermal reaction occurs after being introduced to a hydrogen donor — an arrangement that chemists have been vying to observe for over three decades.
"At first the rearrangement was simply considered a curiosity, but in the late 1980s it was discovered that [it is] the mechanism of action for some anticancer drugs, which are based on this reaction," explained chemist and study researcher Diego Peña in an official statement released by IBM in an effort to trace the historical origin of interest. "This naturally attracted a lot of attention from the scientific community, and now it's a very popular reaction in organic chemistry."
The lynchpin observation was achieved with the help of atomic force microscopy (AFM), in which a nano-sized sharp tip tracked and imaged the reaction between the molecules, creating the final image.
What made IBM's breakthrough possible was its own take on AFM technical technique, a particular facet that IBM scientists Leo Gross and Gerhard Meyer have worked on since 2009.
"One main differentiator of our technique, with respect to other established techniques, is that we measure single molecules," said Gross. "Another advantage is that we can use the tip to initiate chemical reactions of individual molecules and we can follow the reactions and study their products at the atomic scale."
"Remarkably, we can change almost all important properties of these molecules by switching them, affecting their reactivity, structure and their optical, electronic and magnetic behavior," he added.
Watch molecules react in the video clip below.
Photo: allispossible.org.uk | Flickr