The study of atoms of any substance is carried out withusing complex laboratory tools that allow scientists to observe processes taking place at the atomic level abstractly, through the influence of particles on the environment. However, studies by scientists from the University of Ulm in Germany made it possible to shoot a real video of the formation of the mutual relationship between the atoms of the chemical substance rhenium (Re). The shooting process was of an active nature, during which it was the recording itself that initiated the beginning of the process of atomic bond formation. The captured video is already called "the best short film of the year."
The main laboratory instrument for researchbecame a transmission electron microscope, the principle of which is similar to an ordinary camera. However, instead of photons of light incident on a photosensitive film, as occurs in a camera, in a microscope, an electron stream penetrates a thin sample of material. The process is removed with the highest degree of resolution - in the video presented, one can observe individual Re atoms, the diameter of which is only 0.2 nm.
As a kind of test tube in whichthe process was filmed, a single-walled carbon nanotube with a diameter of about 1 nm was used. Scientists substantiated the choice for observation of the Re material, by the relatively large sizes of its atoms, which belong to the class of “medium” atoms. The directed electron beam emitted by the microscope gave the atoms an impulse and provided energy to form a bond at the level of the rhenium-rhenium atoms.
In the process of shooting the video, scientists were able to provethat a directed electron beam is capable of initiating processes at the atomic level. In this case, the shape of a nanotube affects atoms and creates the conditions for the formation of various bonds in metals. At the next stages, experiments will be conducted with metals having atoms of a different size.