Ultrahigh Ångström-Scale Resolution Imaging of Molecules

Highest level resolution (Angstrom level) microscopy developed that could observe vibration of molecule

The science and technology of microscopy has come a long way since Van Leeuwenhoek achieved magnification of about 300 in late 17th century using a simple single lens microscope. Now the limits of standard optical imaging techniques is no barrier and ångström-scale resolution has recently been achieved and used to image the motion of a vibrating molecules.

The magnifying power or resolution of a modern standard optical microscope is about few hundreds of nano-meter. Combined with electron microscopy, this has seen improvement to few nano-meter. As reported by Lee et al. recently, this has seen further improvement to few ångström (one tenth of nano-meter) which they used to image vibrations of molecules.

Lee and his colleagues have employed ”tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS) technique” which involved Illuminating the metal tip by a laser to create a confined hotspot at its apex, from which the surface enhanced Raman spectra of a molecule can be measured. A single molecule was anchored firmly on a copper surface and an atomically sharp metallic tip was positioned above the molecule with ångström-scale accuracy. They were able to obtain images of extremely high resolutions in ångström range.

The mathematical computational method notwithstanding, this is the first time spectroscopic method yielded such an ultrahigh resolution images.

There are questions and limitations of the experiments such as the conditions of experiments of ultrahigh vacuum and extremely low temperature (6 kelvin), etc. Nevertheless, Lee’s experiment has opened up many opportunities, for example ultra-high resolution imaging of biomolecules.


{You may read the original research paper by clicking the DOI link given below in the list of cited source(s)}


Lee et al 2019. Snapshots of vibrating molecules. Nature. 568.

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