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First Time, Scientists Imaged Molecules As They Change Charge States

A team of researchers from IBM Research Zurich, ExxonMobil Analysis & Engineering Company & Universidade de Santiago de Compostela has, for the first time, imaged particles as they modify charge states.  Scientists have recognized for some time that molecules change when they’re charged, both in function and structure. But until now, they haven’t been able to see it in action. In this new effort, the investigators have made pictures of four molecules—azobenzene, pentacene, TCNQ, and porphine—as they underwent modifications due to charging. They record that molecular charging is at the very heart of many very important biological processes, such as energy transport and photoconversion—thus, recognizing what it looks like when it happens is very important.

To create the pictures, the researchers placed a single molecule on a remoted NaCl film and then used excessive-resolution atomic force microscopy in very cold vacuum surroundings to switch a single electron from the probe tip to the molecule. Imaging was carried out using carbon monoxide-functionalized ideas. Each of the molecules was imaged in 4 states: neutral, positive, negative and double-negative (including two electrons).

The researchers noticed structural modifications in all the molecules, and that each was modified differently than the others. With pentacene, for instance, the team saw which areas of the molecule turned more reactive. With TCNQ, they noticed modifications in the bonds between the atoms in the molecule—they usually also famous that it moved relative to its base. And with porphine, they noticed modifications to the kinds of bonds and their lengths.

The group further means that using strategies such as imaging molecular charge states will assist with the event of recent supplies and devices—and can enhance our understanding of nature generally.

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