Canadian scientists have for the first time imaged a single electron orbital in a molecule. David Villeneuve of the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa used femtosecond lasers to take a snapshot of an electron orbital in a nitrogen molecule on a timescale of just 30 x 10-15 seconds. Their technique is so fast it can also resolve chemical processes such as dissociation, explains Villeneuve. He and his colleagues are now working on imaging the orbital as the molecule breaks apart. Such incredibly rapid and sensitive analytical techniques could revolutionize our understanding of reaction mechanisms by allowing researchers to observe individual changes as they happen.
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