It was only two years ago that IBM showed us an image of a complete molecule, atomic bonds and all, but today’s news does that one infinitesimally-sized breakthrough better. Ladies and gents, behold the first image of an electron’s path.
Utterly amazing stuff! The IBM breakthrough was amazing enough, but now we have images of the electron’s orbital path around a nucleus! This is good, good news, because until now physicists only had models and hypotheses to work with.
As was the case with the pentacene molecule with IBM (top left in the image), an atomic force microscope was used to capture the electron pathways, presented as darker grey bands in the other two images at centre and upper left. As a quick refreseher on AFMs, they’re the microscopes that use atom-sized needles to measure individual atoms that pass underneath the pointy end.