Mapping the emergence of molecular vibrations mediating bond formation

Journal: Nature

Published: 2020-06-24

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2417-3

Affiliations: 14

Authors: 36

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Research Highlight

Watching atoms as they dance

© PASIEKA/SPL/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

© PASIEKA/SPL/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

In a world first, researchers have precisely monitored how three gold atoms jive when an ultraviolet pulse induces them to form a bond.

Knowing how the atoms in molecules move during the course of a chemical reaction would provide researchers with valuable information for manipulating reactions. But it is extremely challenging to experimentally monitor how the atoms of even the simplest molecules move during a reaction.

Now, a team led by KAIST researchers has created real-time movies of the birth of a chemical bond in a reaction that gold cyanide undergoes when irradiated by ultraviolet light.

A technique known as X-ray liquidography allowed them to track the trajectories of three atoms as they covalently bonded to form a trimer. The results showed that the reaction occurred in two separate stages — not in two parallel tracks as previously thought.

The researchers anticipate that using more-intense X-rays would enable the atomic motions of many other chemical reactions to be directly tracked.

Supported content

  1. Nature 582, 520–524 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2417-3
Institutions Share
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), South Korea 0.26
Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), South Korea 0.22
Division of Chemistry, IBS, South Korea 0.13
Institute of Materials Structure Science (IMSS), KEK, Japan 0.08
Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute (JASRI), Japan 0.06
RIKEN SPring-8 Center (RSC), Japan 0.06
The Catholic University of Korea, South Korea 0.06
Inha University, South Korea 0.06
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies (Sokendai), Japan 0.03
Radiation Center for Ultrafast Science (RCUSE), KAERI, South Korea 0.03
Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL), Germany 0.01
European X-ray Free-Electron Laser Facility GmbH (XFEL), Germany 0.01

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