#CompChem – Can Orbitals Be Directly Observed?


About joaquinbarroso

Computational and theoretical chemist in his early forties, in love with life, science, baseball, and literature. Science literacy makes us responsible citizens, it is therefore a scientific duty to talk, write, and engage with the general public; as Feynman said, if you find science boring, your learning from the wrong teacher. "Make like a molecule and react!"

Posted on July 17, 2017, in Humor, Theoretical Chemistry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Padmavathi ramanujam

    Explain why orbitals can’t observed??

  2. Peter Kant Ropus

    J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137, 14743.

  3. Maximilian Paradiz

    I think it depends on how you choose to define a “direct observation”. If you define the term too strictly, then you’d be hard pressed to find things that can be directly observed in chemistry… and thus this statement is not saying much. However, if you are using a looser definition that is more compatible with standard techniques in chemistry in which signals are correlated to structures and dynamics (NMR, TIRF, AFM, etc…), then here you may find a few examples of direct observations of molecular orbitals:

    Itatani, Jiro, et al. “Tomographic imaging of molecular orbitals.” Nature 432.7019 (2004): 867.

    Zhai, Chunyang, et al. “Coulomb-corrected molecular orbital tomography of nitrogen.” Scientific reports 6 (2016).

    Soe, W-H., et al. “Direct observation of molecular orbitals of pentacene physisorbed on Au (111) by scanning tunneling microscope.” Physical review letters 102.17 (2009): 176102.

    Suzuki, Toshinori. “Femtosecond time-resolved photoelectron imaging.” Annu. Rev. Phys. Chem. 57 (2006): 555-592.

    • Observation of electron density which can be traced to (arbitrary) selection of orbitals is indeed possible, but why would the angular part of an orbital, i.e. a spherical harmonic function be observed and not a Bloch function or a Hankel spherical function?
      The claim is just to sketchy for me.

      Thanks for pointing these papers out. Have a nice day

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  1. Pingback: No, seriously, why can’t orbitals be observed? | Dr. Joaquin Barroso's Blog

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