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R.J. Miller, Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter, Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast Imaging, University of Toronto

Mapping Atomic Motions with Ultrabright Electrons—Realization of the Chemists’ Gedanken Experiment

Written by Yuanyuan Zhu

One of the “holy grails” in chemistry and materials science has been the capability of making direct observation of the atomic motions driving chemical processes. Extraordinary space-time resolution - relevant timescales in the 10-100 femtosecond and atomic imaging requiring Å or sub-Å

resolution - needs to be achieved to capture the motion of atoms. Here, R.J. Miller, director of the Atomically Resolved Dynamics Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter and professor of chemistry and physics at the University of Toronto presented an excellent overview on the global competition and progress in ultrafast atomic imaging. His research is focused on understanding molecular reaction dynamics on the fastest possible time scales, with an overall objective of bringing new insight into the structure-function correlation to chemical and biological processes. In particular, Miller reported the development of some of the world’s brightest electron sources in his laboratory, which can literally light up atomic motions on the femtosecond timescale to directly resolve this structure-function correlation and to provide the most fundamental (atomic) basis for understanding chemical and biological processes.

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