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Researchers capture first-ever images of atoms moving inside a molecule

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The headline sums it up nicely but really, those photographic acrobatics account for only part of the story. Starting from the beginning, a research team led by Louis DiMauro of Ohio State University used an "ultrafast" laser to knock an electron out of its orbit, which scattered off the molecule as it fell back toward its natural path. That ripple effect you see in that photo up there represents any changes the molecule went through during the quadrillionth of a second that transpired between laser pulses. Yes, that's the kind of rare, psychedelic shot that's sure to earn DiMauro and team bragging rights, but the scientists also say this technique could have practical implications for observing -- and ultimately manipulating -- chemical reactions at an atomic level. Of course, it could be a long time yet before scientists analyze complex proteins in such detail: for the purposes of this experiment, the researchers stuck with simple nitrogen and oxygen molecules, with which chemistry scholars are already quite familiar. In fact, the researchers don't elaborate at all on specific studies where this technique might be useful, but you might want to hit up the source link nonetheless for some of the more technical details of how they pulled off this experiment in the first place.

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