A new technique shows how a molecule is converted into two main products through a well-defined chemical reaction.
IN STUDYING CHEMISTRY, reactions are taught showing how atoms are manipulated in specific processes to make new molecules. For those who are chemists, there are a myriad of these processes that have to be learned.
A series of analytical techniques are used such as FT-IR and NMR to show that an actual change in the chemical structure has taken place. One of the frustrations chemists have is the inability to actually see a reaction taking place.
The major emphasis on developing and applying nanotechnology to lubrication has led to the use of new analytical techniques to better understand how atoms interact with each other and to determine the nature of friction and wear at the nanoscale. In a previous TLT article, research was presented that gained insight on the mechanism for wear.1 A new procedure using an apparatus similar to an atomic force microscope (AFM) placed within a transmission electron microscope (TEM) was used. The researchers evaluated the wear found when a diamond punch was placed in contact with sharp asperities present at the ends of silicon AFM tips. Wear is believed to occur through an atom-byatom mechanism instead of fracture or plastic deformation.
Fischer also notes that the structural identification of a molecule using STM is generally aided by a very expensive and time-consuming theoretical modeling process.
A new technique is needed to obtain images of molecules used in specific reactions. Such a method has recently been made available and has been used by Fischer and Dr.
NONCONTACT ATOMIC FORCE MICROSCOPY
Fischer and Crommie applied a new technique that is known as noncontact atomic force microscopy (nc-AFM) to probe an actual chemical reaction. He says, "Nc-AFM is similar to normal AFM except that it involves the use of a special tip at the end of the cantilever. This tip literally decorated at its apex with a single carbon monoxide molecule that probes the structure of the surface. The apex of this modified tip is thus composed of only a single oxygen atom that interacts with the molecules adsorbed on the surface, leading to much higher resolution imaging."
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