Cobalt and Iron structures
Photo: Imaging and Analysis Center

A team led by Princeton researchers is the first to directly observe and distinguish electron orbital structures of atoms within a molecule. In the image here, captured using an atomic force microscope, iron and cobalt, which are chemically similar, can be distinguished by their shapes (the iron atom is square-like) and brightness (cobalt is brighter). “People have predicted certain orbital structures, but they have never seen them,” said Professor Nan Yao, director of Princeton’s Imaging and Analysis Center (IAC), where the image was produced. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications in March.