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Using A Laser To 'See' The Smallest World

A multi-university team has employed a high-powered laser to dramatically improve one of the tools scientists use to study the world at the atomic level. The team was able to use their amped-up electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectrometer to study the electron spin of free radicals and nitrogen atoms trapped inside a diamond. The improvement will pull back the veil that shrouds the molecular world, allowing scientists to study tiny molecules at a high resolution. The team, which includes researchers from USC, the University of California-Santa Barbara and Florida State University, will publish their findings in Nature on September 20.

"We developed the world's first free-electron laser powered EPR spectrometer. This ultra high-frequency high-power EPR system gives us extremely good time resolution. For example, it enables us to film biological molecules in motion," said Susumu Takahashi, assistant professor of Chemistry at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and lead author of the Nature paper.

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