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Using low-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy, Karsten Lucht and Karina Morgenstern can observe the behaviour of individual molecules in detail. © RUB, Marquard

Tracking a solvation process step by step

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.: Numerous chemical and industrial processes take place in solution. But the exact interactions between solvent and solute are not yet understood.

Chemists of Ruhr-Universität Bochum tracked with unprecedented spatial resolution how individual water molecules attach to an organic molecule. They used low-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy to visualize the processes at a scale smaller than one nanometre. This allowed them to investigate the phenomena of hydrophilicity and hydrophobicity at the molecular level, i.e. why certain parts of organic molecules attract or repel water.