We are well used to digital cameras. These basically capture photons and a computer transforms this measurement into an image, the photo.
Scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in team with other scientists at Stanford have developed an electron camera that can capture the movements of single atoms in a time frame of a trillionth of a second.
They have been able to show the ripples generated by a laser beam as it hits a three atoms layer of molybdenum disulfide.
This result should help scientists around the world to study 2D materials, a novel branch of science that is looking at properties of materials that are just a few atoms thick. Of course the most known is graphene but there are plenty of other materials that show very peculiar, and interesting, properties when they are one or just a few atoms thick.
By understanding better their characteristics, now that researchers have found ways of producing them, it will be possibile to create better sensors, better photovoltaic cells and better coatings that can turn a material into a smart material.
This is very recent, we might say it has become main stream research in the last 5 years. The bet is to convert these research result into industrial result that can be both affordable and massively produced in the next five years. This will create a new class of materials and products that will likely change our everyday experience with our environment.