In June 2013, researchers in China reported the ability to view molecules using light-based microscopy in stunning detail.
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.
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.
Using this method, the team was able to view individual molecules in stunning detail.
The new method essentially allows the researchers to increase their ability to resolve images.
Researchers peered inside molecules at less than one nanometer resolution, close enough to see individual bonds vibrating.
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.