The team at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics took the electrically neutral molecules and produced ions with a single positive charge by removing a single electron from each molecule. These ions can be boosted to very high speeds in a particle accelerator. The accelerated ions then pass through a very thin diamond foil. In under one femtosecond (one millionth of a billionth of a second), the foil strips the binding electrons from the molecules. All that remains are highly charged atoms which vehemently repel one another. Having lost the electrons that "glue" the molecules together, the fragments now fly apart.
After passing through the foil, the fragments move further apart from one another. However, the atoms retain their relative positions. As the time of flight increases, an ever larger, three-dimensional image of the molecule, retaining the underlying geometry, is obtained. Once it reaches a 3D detector, the image of the molecule has already grown to a few centimetres in size, and the detector records this structure. In order to meet the demanding requirements which apply to measuring chiral molecules, the detector arrangement was optimised to detect up to five fragments at once. The image on the detector shows the absolute configuration which in turn directly reveals the molecule's handedness.
Now I for one think that is rather clever!
I think this method has huge potential.
This would be obviously harder for very large molecules but I wonder if it can be somehow made to work for very large organic molecules such as ribosomes?
-It would be great if it could!