Atomic force microscope takes a closer look at individual atoms

Hot on the heels of Purdue's Mini 10 chemical analyzer comes a (somewhat) similar creature from the other side of the globe, as Osaka University's Yoshiaki Sugimoto and colleagues have "found a way to use the atomic force microscope to produce images that reveal the chemical identity of individual atoms on a surface." Essentially, this new discovery allows scientists to look at a mixed material and "pick out individual atoms of different elements on its surface, such as tin or silicon." The microscopes themselves are quite common in this realm, but until now, they have not been capable of distinguishing between atoms of different chemical elements. The atomic fingerprint, as it's so aptly named, is what the crew scrutinized in order to distinguish between varying atoms on a sample surface, as they witnessed that the relationship between force and distance is "slightly different for atoms of different elements." Of course, we have to look for the practical use in all this hubbub, and a non-participating scientist from the UK has insinuated that the discovery could be useful for nanotechnology researchers trying to design devices at the molecular level -- and who wouldn't be down a little nanotech garb or a snazzy new water-repelling umbrella?