First X-ray Image of Single Atom: Seeing the Unseeable

The team used a technique called synchrotron X-ray scanning tunneling microscopy (SX-STM) to image the atoms. SX-STM combines the basic mechanics of a scanning probe microscope with X-rays produced by an atomic accelerator called a synchrotron. This produces an X-ray spectrum that records how the X-rays are absorbed by the cited electrons at the core level.

Ring-shaped supramolecule with only one Fe atom is present and X-ray signature of just one Fe atom

The scientists used SX-STM to image two different single atoms: one of iron and another of terbium. They were able to identify the atoms by their unique X-ray signatures. They were also able to measure the electron arrangement within each atom.

This is the first time that scientists have been able to image and characterize individual atoms with such high resolution. The technique could be used to study a wide range of materials, including catalysts, semiconductors, and biological molecules. It could also be used to develop new materials with improved properties.

Potential Applications

The team’s work is a major breakthrough in the field of atomic imaging. It could lead to new insights into the behavior of materials and the development of new technologies.

Here are some of the potential applications of this technology:

  • Understanding the behavior of materials. By studying the structure and electronic properties of individual atoms, scientists can gain a better understanding of how materials behave. This could lead to the development of new materials with improved properties, such as new catalysts for chemical reactions or new semiconductors for electronic devices.
  • Developing new medical treatments. By studying the structure of individual atoms in proteins and other biomolecules, scientists can better understand how these molecules function. This could lead to the development of new drugs and other treatments for diseases.
  • Creating new forms of computing. By using single atoms as building blocks, scientists could create new forms of computing that are more powerful and efficient than current computers. This could lead to the development of new technologies, such as quantum computers.

The potential applications of this technology are vast and exciting. The team’s work is a major step forward in the development of atomic imaging, and it could lead to new breakthroughs in a wide range of fields.

Source: New Atlas

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