How molecules interact and transfer energy between each other dictates the performance in molecular electronics, organic light emitting diodes, photovoltaics, or in many biological processes. However, imaging the controlling underlying molecular order and associated wavefunction delocalization on the molecular scale has long remained a major challenge in imaging science.

A STROBE team from CU Boulder, UC Berkeley and LBNL, has overcome this challenge developing a new technique of nanoimaging in the infrared probing the delicate low-energy landscape of molecular interactions. Measuring coupled molecular vibrations with high precision provides for a new molecular ruler to resolve the effect of disorder with sub-nanometer resolution. In a representative organic electronic material of metal-porphyrin nano-crystals the researchers learned about the relationship between structure and function of energy transfer on molecular length scales. The new insights gained advance our understanding of light harvesting in photosynthesis and improve the design of next generation organic electronic and photonic devices.