Scientists produce best image yet of atoms moving in real time

April 19, 2013

University of Toronto scientists have recorded atomic motions in real time for the first time. Despite the enormous number of possible arrangements of atoms during a structural transition, such as occurs with changes in charge distribution or chemical processes, the interconversion from one structure to another reduces to a few key types of motions. This enormous reduction in dimensionality is what makes chemical concepts transferable from one molecule to another and has enabled chemists to synthesize nearly any molecule desired, for new drugs to infusing new material properties. This movie gives a direct atomic level view of this enormous reduction in complexity. The specific trajectories along three different coordinates, as highlighted in the movie, are shown as projections (right view) on a cube. The key atomic motions can be mapped on to three highly simplified coordinates — the magic of chemistry in its full atomic splendor. (Credit: University of Toronto)