The first atom of hydrogen to be discovered by an international collaboration
A first atom made of hydrogen has been discovered by a team led by a US researcher.
The discovery, made by researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Manchester in the UK, was reported in Nature.
The hydrogen atom was found in a mixture of four different atoms, which were identified using X-ray diffraction, a method that detects the movement of electrons within atoms.
This type of electron diffraction is normally used to detect the presence of a certain element in a substance.
In this case, the team identified two of the four hydrogen atoms, as well as the electrons that make up the oxygen atom.
The researchers believe this is the first time such a complex arrangement of hydrogen atoms has been detected by X-rays.
“Theoretically, hydrogen atoms should be able to hold a lot of electrons,” said lead researcher Dr Rong-Feng Zhao, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at NUS.
“However, they are hard to see because they are arranged like a spiderweb.”
Dr Zhao said the atom was about 4,500 times smaller than the size of a human hair.
The team had to work around a limitation of X-Ray diffraction in order to find the hydrogen atom.
“This limitation has made it difficult to observe hydrogen atoms in this way, but now we are able to do so,” he said.
“If we were to do it in a different way, we would be able see the hydrogen atoms without the limitations we are currently facing.”
This is important for scientists to know the properties of these atomic configurations because they could be used to create a range of new materials that are currently impossible to make.
“These materials are based on these structures,” Dr Zhao said.
Image caption The first atoms of hydrogen discovered by researchers in Singapore have been identified by the UK teamSource: NatureNatureNews