Physicists at the University of York, working with researchers at the University of Birmingham and Genoa, have developed new technology to study atomic vibration in small particles, revealing a more accurate picture of the structure of atomic clusters where surface atoms vibrate more intensively than internal atoms. An illustration of the extent to which the atoms, in a small cluster of atoms, vibrate. The spheres represent the range of motion of the atoms, rather than the atoms themselves – the spheres have been exaggerated in size by 45 times in order to ease visualisation. The atoms on the surface have larger ranges of motion than those in the middle of the cluster. Using new computer technology based on gaming machines, scientists were able to use a combination of molecular dynamics and quantum mechanics calculations to simulate the electron microscopy of gold particles. By modelling the atomic vibration of individual atoms in such clusters realistically, external atoms on the surface of the structure can be ‘seen’ to vibrate more than internal atoms. The research is published in the latest issue of Physical Review Letters. Currently, electron microscopy only allows scientists to estimate the average position of atoms in a three-dimensional structure. This
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