Real-time atoms

Dwayne Miller of the University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues have recorded atomic motions in real time at the transition state of a reaction using an ultra-bright electron source. Electrons interact with atoms 1 million times stronger than X-rays and can be produced with a table-top instrument to efficiently produce enormous, effective brightness for viewing atomic motions, explains Miller. It’s the first look at how chemistry and biology involve just a few key motions for even the most complex systems, he says. There is an enormous reduction in complexity at the defining point, the transition state region, which makes chemical processes transferrable from one type of molecule to another.