Scientists at the Max Born Institute have developed a novel spectroscopic method that simultaneously observes the atomic composition and the spatial structure of molecules. They report on their work in the online edition of Science.
Looking at different material properties at the same time is a matter of course in our everyday lives: Even a small child can sort building blocks according to color and shape at the same time. In the world of atoms and molecules, this is not so easy, because a law of quantum physics says that you can not measure a property without changing it.
To determine the properties of molecules, scientists today have access to a multitude of spectroscopic methods. For example, with rotational spectroscopy, molecular structures can be distinguished from one another because molecules with characteristic frequencies rotate. The analysis with a mass spectrometer "weighs" molecules and their fragments and thus gives information about their atomic composition. So far researchers have only been able to perform such measurements individually or in succession, but not simultaneously. The Correlated Rotational Alignment Spectroscopy, CRASY for short, now allows the simultaneous determination of correlated properties of molecular structure and atomic composition via rotational and mass spectroscopy.