Vibrations of a molecule in an external force field

Research Highlight

Feeling a molecule’s vibe

© PM Images/Getty

© PM Images/Getty

By measuring the vibrational energy of a molecule bonded to a surface, scientists gain deeper insights into chemical reactions like catalysis.

The vibrational energy provides essential information on the strength of the molecule-surface bond and can be measured by combining scanning tunneling microscopy with inelastic electron microscopy. However, the tip of the microscope can cause structural changes in the molecule, altering its vibrational energy. 

Now, an international team of scientists, including researchers from Kanazawa University in Japan, has used atomic force microscopy to investigate how the microscope’s tip influences the bond between a carbon monoxide molecule and a copper surface. The researchers found that the bond elongated and weakened, but that the force exerted by the tip was itself insufficient to produce the observed changes in vibrational energy.

The work could lead to a more precise method for measuring the molecule-surface bond, leading to a better understanding of processes, such as catalysis. 


Supported content

  1. PNAS 115, 4571-4576 (2018). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1721498115
Institutions FC
Institut für Experimentelle und Angewandte Physik, UR, Germany 0.50
Division of Natural System, KU, Japan 0.30
Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering, LNU, Sweden 0.20

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