We've come a long way from the first glass-and-light optical microscopes. These days, scientists can focus on individual molecules using advanced methods like atomic force microscopy
(AFM), where a miniscule probe feels out the details of a surface. And in this AFM image of a nanographene molecule, the resolution is so high that for the first time, we can see the individual bonds between atoms, shown here as green lines. In a new paper in the journal Science
, IBM researchers used the same imaging technique to measure the length and relative strength
of individual bonds in the spherical carbon molecules called buckyballs
. Their method can not only improve our intimate understanding of these and other molecules---it also lets us get up close and personal with the building blocks of all matter.
Image courtesy of IBM Research – Zurich / Flickr