This is an amazing achievement for the scientific world. Until now, this phenomenon was presented only with the help of models. Now we have the first recording showing the binding of atoms in real time.
A group of scientists from the German University of Ulm and the British University of Nottingham managed to do this by using a transmission electron microscope (TEM) and carbon nanotubes. The video shows two rhenium atoms with a diameter of 0.1-0.3 nanometers each, which means that we are dealing with objects up to 500,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.
Physicists have trapped a pair of rhenium atoms bonded in Re2 in carbon nanotubes. They have decided on rhenium because it has a high atomic number, and thanks to that it is easier to image than lighter elements using transmission electron microscopy methods.
During the experiment, researchers used the electron flux generated by the TEM microscope to precisely measure the position of atoms, and thanks to them initiated the entire chemical reaction that was filmed in real time. Germany and the British report that chemical bonds between atoms are formed as a result of the sharing of two or more electrons. The effect of combining and disconnecting them can be seen on the video material published in the news.
We can see on it how two rhenium atoms revolve around each other, getting closer and closer, and then combine to form a molecule and continue to move together. Moments later they separate from each other. This occurs when the length of the bond exceeds the diameters of both atoms. The bond breaks and the vibrations between the atoms cease, which means that the atoms are independent again.
The researchers point out that as Re2 travels in the nanotube, the binding length also changes. This means that it becomes stronger or weaker depending on the environment of the atoms. Thanks to the recording, we finally learned the order of bonds between two atoms, their number and how these bonds change.