# Photography of atoms?

1. May 7, 2013

### Double-Slit

What is the most accurate,closest and best photo that exists of an individual atom or molecule?
There is the scanning tunneling microscope which is way better than the electron microscope,yet it doesn't photographs them by reflecting light off them,it uses quantum tunneling of electrons.I would like to know what was the closest point that an atom can be photographed with a conventional method of reflecting light,and a genuine photo also if possible,there are enough fake ones on google? Also im curious how much the uncertainty principle will let us of visualizing individual atoms?

2. May 7, 2013

### mathman

The problem is simply a matter of size. Atoms have a diameter < 1 nanometer, while light waves have wavelengths ~ several hundred nanometers. The point being if an object is smaller than a wavelength, light can't be used.

3. May 7, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Visible light is just the wrong tool to get images of atoms. STED can go beyond the diffraction limit and if I remember correctly it is possible to monitor individual atoms in optical lattices, but atoms don't even have a structure which would be visible to visible light.

4. May 7, 2013

### Double-Slit

use gamma rays...their wavelength is ~1 picometer ,tighter than any atom's radius.

Any photos please?...and how so they don't have a structure visible ,setting aside the quantum phenomena,and by using proper wavelength gamma rays they should refract light as other things.Of course due to uncertainty the picture would be a bit blurry but still it would be possible to photo it.I am really looking for any experiment done like this,with a photo,thanks ahead!

Last edited: May 7, 2013
5. May 7, 2013

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
And you hope to view this using what? Your eye? You wanted this "photographed in the conventional manner". Do you have such camera? How would you display such wavelength so that your eye can see it? Using false colors? But then, this is no longer conventional, and it is now no different than using electrons and then displaying it using something that the eye can see.

And this is before we even consider what those gamma rays would do to the atom itself so much so that it would alter it.

Zz.

6. May 7, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

X-rays are not reflected [edit: fixed typo] by atoms (with a reasonable probability), and they are hard to steer with the required precision. Still better than visible light.
Gamma rays are even worse, there are no real lenses for them at all.

Femtosecond lasers can look at the structure of electron orbitals, but you need computers to convert the data into a nice image.

You want to see images. I suggest that you look for them yourself (with the keywords given here) instead of asking others to do that for you.

You cannot ignore quantum phenomena for individual atoms. There is no way to describe atoms properly without quantum mechanics.
For visible light, this "a bit blurry" is way larger than the atom itself.

Last edited: May 7, 2013
7. May 7, 2013

### Double-Slit

Yea you're right.I forgot that humans can't see gamma rays with naked eye :shy:

Hmm,X-rays can alter the electron configuration (photoelectric effect).But I shall look into this it sounds interesting.
And I just wished for some photos,even if they were computer generated by data,there are so many fake ones really hard to find a genuine one.I remember there was a research group which conducted a very similar experiment but they used the STM microscope.

8. May 7, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Bad position for a typo :(. I meant reflected, in reference to your first post.

Just look for original research papers then, they have real photos.

9. May 7, 2013

### Andy Resnick

STED and associated super-resolution techniques (PALM, STORM, etc) have been shown to resolve down to 20nm:

http://zhuang.harvard.edu/storm.html [Broken]
http://huanglab.ucsf.edu/STORM.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19548237

Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
10. May 8, 2013

### Double-Slit

Thank you,those papers were great.The STORM is really a good way to probe molecules,but unfortunately those protein molecules were huge in comparison to a normal molecule of water or salt.Is there any photo of something smaller?

Actually Ive found one,is this a genuine photo or fake?
http://www.astro.virginia.edu/class/whittle/astr124/matter/atom_lattice.html

Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
11. May 8, 2013

### Andy Resnick

That is a real image, but you disqualified from consideration it your original post.

12. May 8, 2013

### dsmikk

Last edited: May 8, 2013
13. May 9, 2013

### sophiecentaur

Agreed. What is available is only 'photographs' (images) of models of atoms and molecules and not photographs of the objects themselves. If he wants accurate models of the spatial arrangements of these objects then they will never be 'optical' in the first place.

The lowest limit for objects that can be 'seen' with an optical microscope is around 200nm, so I believe.

14. May 9, 2013

### Double-Slit

Yes you are right 200nm is the lower limit for optical microscopes.I guess the stucture of the human eye is not that efficient.Frogs can detect individual photons.

15. May 9, 2013

### sophiecentaur

Sensitivity to individual photons has absolutely nothing to do with resolving an image. You cannot confuse a quantum particle with a wave. The human eye is not the thing that imposes the 200nm limit on resolution. It is the wavelength of visible light and the effects of diffraction. It could be that, by extending the sensitivity curve somewhere into the UV, the resolution could be improved but it would no longer satisfy the requirements of the OP. It would be a 'false colour' image of some kind and not 'what it looks like'.

16. May 13, 2013

### Double-Slit

Maybe increasing the sensitivity could help more.Let's not forget that this technology is still new and I don't think that our current it has reached the maximum sensivity limit which the uncertainty principle allows for particles.For example the electron tunneling microscope can be further improved by sharping the head to be less wide.It could improve on the resolution and help us localize it more.It may be that quantum effects have limited certainty but we still don't have the ultimate microscope or detector that can "picture" atomic scale most efficiently.

17. May 13, 2013

### sophiecentaur

"Maybe"?
Do you have some scheme in mind that is more than just optics with a sensitive detector? There are techniques, used for longer (RF) wavelengths that can extend resolution way down below the (arbitrary) 'diffraction limit' but they do not involve single photons.