At the heart of chemistry has always been the chemical reaction, and numerous analytical tools, such as NMR, UV-vis spectroscopy and mass spectrometry, are commonly used to elucidate reaction mechanisms. These conventional techniques have, however, an important limitation: they measure ensembles of millions of molecules at the same time and give only an average picture of a reaction mechanism, which might be incomplete and misleading because certain molecules might react whilst others are inactive. It is for this reason that during the past decade the interest is increasingly focusing on studying chemical reactions at the level of single molecules, and the stormy development of methods that allow such single molecule investigations, in particular Scanning Probe Microscopy, makes totally new insights in reaction mechanisms possible.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(09)70200-7