Researchers at IBM have created the world's smallest movie by manipulating single atoms on a copper surface.
The stop-motion animation uses a few dozen carbon atoms, moved around with the tiny tip of what is called a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM).
It would take about 1,000 of the frames of the film laid side by side to span a single human hair.
The extraordinary feat of atomic precision has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
It is a showpiece for IBM's efforts to design next-generation data storage solutions based on single atoms.
IBM's scientists have been behind a number of technologies that can peer into atomic and molecular systems - their recent efforts using a related
machine called an atomic force microscope have yielded pictures of single molecules and even images that detail the atomic bonds within molecules.
The movie is really a conversation-starter to get kids and other people talking about -and excited about - math, science and technology”
The new movie, titled A Boy and His Atom, instead uses the STM, an IBM invention which garnered the scientists behind it the 1986 Nobel prize in
The device works by passing an electrically charged, phenomenally sharp metal needle across the surface of a sample. As the tip nears features on the
surface, the charge can "jump the gap" in a quantum physics effect called tunnelling.
The 242 frames of the 90-second movie are essentially maps of this "tunnelling current" with a given arrangement of atoms. It depicts a boy playing
with a "ball" made of a single atom, dancing, and jumping on a trampoline.
"The tip of the needle is both our eyes and our hands: it senses the atoms to make images of where the atoms are, and then it is moved closer to the
atoms to tug them along the surface to new positions," explained Andreas Heinrich, principal investigator at IBM Research in California, US.
"The atoms hold still at their new positions because they form chemical bonds to the copper atoms in the surface underneath, and that lets us take an
image of the whole arrangement of atoms in each frame of the film.
Thanks for the post, I never knew humans had invented ways to move around individual atoms at will so easily. And I'd like to see one of those atoms
magnified mucho times to see if any structure stands out.
This content community relies on user-generated content from our member contributors. The opinions of our members are not those of site ownership who maintains strict editorial agnosticism and simply provides a collaborative venue for free expression.