Their version of the device acts like a tiny tuning fork, with one of the prongs of the fork passing incredibly close to the sample and the other farther away.
When the fork is set vibrating, the prong nearest the sample will experience a minuscule shift in the frequency of its vibration, simply because it is getting close to the molecule.
Comparing the frequencies of the two prongs gives a measure of just how close the nearer prong is, effectively mapping out the molecule’s structure.
Incredible! The BBC reports on IBM’s research that has led to the imaging of a single molecule and its bonds! Just as fascinating (to nerds like me) is the imaging methodology: