New use found for tunneling microscope

April 23, 2007

Dutch researchers have found a new use for scanning tunneling microscopes: visualizing individual catalysts at work at a solid-liquid interface.

Johannes Elemans and colleagues at Radboud University said their new method could eliminate the process of measuring the ensemble properties of a large number of molecules.

The researchers formed arrays of large flat organic molecules, known as porphyrins, on a gold surface. The metal atom at the center of each porphyrin can react with oxygen to form a catalytic site, which can be used to convert one type of organic compound (an alkene) into another (an epoxide).

Using a scanning tunneling microscope, the team "watched" individual porphyrins at each step of the process. That offered a unique insight into how such reactions work at the single-molecule level, revealing information about catalyst activity, stability and distribution across the surface.

The method is detailed in the current issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

Explore further: Direct observation of carbon monoxide binding to metal-porphyrines

Related Stories

Two-proton bit controlled by a single copper atom

January 16, 2014

Just a single foreign atom located in the vicinity of a molecule can change spatial arrangement of its atoms. In a spectacular experiment, an international team of researchers was able to change positions of the nuclei of ...

Recommended for you

Physicists develop new technique to fathom 'smart' materials

November 26, 2015

Physicists from the FOM Foundation and Leiden University have found a way to better understand the properties of manmade 'smart' materials. Their method reveals how stacked layers in such a material work together to bring ...

Mathematicians identify limits to heat flow at the nanoscale

November 24, 2015

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.