It’s a groundbreaking technique. What does it allow researchers to do? To identify for the first time the chemical state of a single atom. Even if it is part of a solid, liquid or gas, and if it is bonded to other atoms. Thus the first X-ray of an atom was achieved. Ohio University professor Saw Wai Hla is an author of the study. He explained that even before, scientists were able to obtain images of individual atoms with scanning probe microscopes. But they could not identify their composition.
“We can now precisely identify the type and chemical state of a specific atom. One atom at a time. We will then be able to break down materials to their maximum limit of a single atom. This will have a major influence on environmental and medical sciences. It could lead to cures that could drastically affect humanity. This discovery will transform the world.
Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois custom-built a microscopy instrument. Its synchrotron X-ray tunneling effect obtained images of a single atom.
“The technique used broke new ground in X-ray science and nanoscale studies. It will give rise to new technologies. In particular, in quantum information and trace element detection in medical research.” Tolulope co-author Michael Ajayi, a doctoral student at Ohio University, said.
They called this technique “X-ray excited resonance tunneling or X-ERT.” It has numerous applications. Including a greater understanding of the performance of rare earth metals such as those used in electronic devices.
Mystery that fascinates
X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Röntgen. He called them X-radiation because it was a mystery. They are a form of electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength beyond what is visible to human eyes. They were recognized almost immediately for their immense medical applications. And they became key tools in astronomy and other fields, despite the cancer risk from exposure. And now, thanks to them, the first X-ray of an atom has been achieved. What else is coming in the future?