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Image Gallery: Stunning Peek Inside Molecules

Unprecedented images

a view of a molecule with raman spectroscopy

(Image credit: Guoyan Wang and Rongting Zhou)

In June 2013, researchers in China reported the ability to view molecules using light-based microscopy in stunning detail.

Enhanced method

the setup for tip-enhanced raman spectroscopy

(Image credit: Zhenchao Dong)

In the new method, the researchers used a technique called Raman spectroscopy to view the molecules. They enhanced it by bringing a metal tip close to the sample.

Tip enhanced

The setup for tip enhanced raman spectroscopy

(Image credit: Zhenchao Dong)

In raman spectroscopy, a focused beam of light hits the molecules, changing the vibrational frequency of light given off. By measuring that frequency, scientists can gain information about the molecules being viewed. The metal tip improves the resolving power of the microscope.

Stunning detail

image of a molecule visualized using raman spectroscopy

(Image credit: Dong Xie and Rongting Zhou)

Using this method, the team was able to view individual molecules in stunning detail.

Focusing light

light being focused using a new technique

(Image credit: Yanxiang Zhang)

The new method essentially allows the researchers to increase their ability to resolve images.

Individual bonds

a molecule imaged under raman spectroscopy

(Image credit: Guoyan Wang and Yan Liang)

Researchers peered inside molecules at less than one nanometer resolution, close enough to see individual bonds vibrating.

Molecular resolution

Two images of a porphyrin molecule using different techniques

(Image credit: Guoyan Wang and Yan Liang)

Top left: experimental map of an isolated porphyrin molecule for a given vibration frequency revealing the four-lobe pattern. Bottom left: theoretical calculation of the same molecular vibration showing its fingerprint. On the right: molecular structure of the porphyrin used in the experiment.

Tia Ghose

Tia is the assistant managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.