Feeling a molecule’s vibe

Probing the bond between a molecule and a surface leads to a better understanding of important processes like catalytic reactions


By measuring the vibrational energy of a molecule bonded to a surface, scientists gain deeper insights into chemical reactions like catalysis.

The vibrational energy provides essential information on the strength of the molecule-surface bond and can be measured by combining scanning tunneling microscopy with inelastic electron microscopy. However, the tip of the microscope can cause structural changes in the molecule, altering its vibrational energy. 

Now, an international team of scientists, including researchers from Kanazawa University in Japan, has used atomic force microscopy to investigate how the microscope’s tip influences the bond between a carbon monoxide molecule and a copper surface. The researchers found that the bond elongated and weakened, but that the force exerted by the tip was itself insufficient to produce the observed changes in vibrational energy.

The work could lead to a more precise method for measuring the molecule-surface bond, leading to a better understanding of processes, such as catalysis.

This article was first published by Springer Nature. Read the original article here.