Physicists take first-ever X-rays of single atoms

Friday, June 2, 2023 - 13:08 in Physics & Chemistry

The particle accelerator at Argonne National Laboratory provided the intense X-rays needed to image single atoms. Argonne National Laboratory/Flickr Perhaps you think of X-rays as the strange, lightly radioactive waves that phase through your body to scan broken bones or teeth. When you get an X-ray image taken, your medical professionals are essentially using it to characterize your body. Many scientists use X-rays in a very similar role—they just have different targets. Instead of scanning living things (which likely wouldn’t last long when exposed to the high-powered research X-rays), they scan molecules or materials. In the past, scientists have X-rayed batches of atoms, to understand what they are and predict how those atoms might fare in a particular chemical reaction. But no one has been able to X-ray an individual atom—until now. Physicists...

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