This Picture Shows Individual Atomic Bonds Inside a Molecule

This isn't the view through your childhood kaleidoscope. Nor is it an alien craft come to beam you up. In fact, it's the world's first atomic force microscopy image of chemical bonds inside an individual molecule.

Created by IBM scientists in Zurich, Switzerland, using noncontact atomic force microscopy, the image shows the varying electron concentration around a molecule of nanographene. In other words, it shows the covalent bonds inside the molecule, depicting how long and strong they are. IBM scientists explain:

The individual bonds between carbon atoms in such molecules differ subtly in their length and strength. All the important chemical, electronic, and optical properties of such molecules are related to the differences of bonds in the polyaromatic systems. Now, for the first time, these differences were detected for both individual molecules and bonds. This can increase basic understanding at the level of individual molecules, important for research on novel electronic devices, organic solar cells, and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). In particular, the relaxation of bonds around defects in graphene as well as the changing of bonds in chemical reactions and in excited states could potentially be studied.

Of course, as well as making for ground-breaking science, the images also look incredibly cool. Good enough for a desktop image? [IBM]

Image by IBM