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The World's Smallest Movie

The ability to move single atoms, one of the smallest particles of any element in the universe, is crucial to IBM's research in the field of atomic-scale memory. In 2012, IBM scientists announced the creation of the world's smallest magnetic memory bit, made of just 12 atoms. This breakthrough could transform computing by providing the world with devices that have access to unprecedented levels of data storage. But even nanophysicists need to have a little fun. In that spirit, the scientists moved atoms by using their scanning tunneling microscope to make a movie, which has been verified by Guinness World Records™ as The World’s Smallest Stop-Motion Film.

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"A Boy and His Atom" depicts a character named Atom who befriends a single atom and goes on a playful journey that includes dancing, playing catch and bouncing on a trampoline. Set to a playful musical track, the movie represents a unique way to convey science outside the research community.

"Capturing, positioning and shaping atoms to create an original motion picture on the atomic-level is a precise science and entirely novel," said Andreas Heinrich, Principle Investigator, IBM Research. "At IBM, researchers don't just read about science, we do it. This movie is a fun way to share the atomic-scale world.

In order to make the movie, the atoms were moved with an IBM-invented scanning tunneling microscope. "This Nobel Prize winning tool was the first device that enabled scientists to visualize the world all the way down to single atoms," said Christopher Lutz, Research Scientist, IBM Research. "It weighs two tons, operates at a temperature of negative 268 degrees Celsius and magnifies the atomic surface over 100 million times. The ability to control the temperature, pressure and vibrations at exact levels makes our IBM Research lab one of the few places in the world where atoms can be moved with such precision."

Remotely operated on a standard computer, IBM researchers used the microscope to control a super-sharp needle along a coppersurface to "feel" atoms. Only 1 nanometer away from the surface, which is a billionth of a meter in distance, the needle can physically attract atoms and molecules on the surface and thus pull them to a precisely specified location on the surface. The moving atom makes a unique sound that is critical feedback in determining how many positions it's actually moved.

 

Enjoy the world's smallest movie "A Boy And His Atom"

The world's smallest movie set :

The scanning tunneling microscope (STM):
One way to look at the STM is as a needle that drags atoms across a surface using magnetism. But behind that needle is a room full of equipment, all there to control the environment to a spectacular degree. The development of the STM by IBM researchers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986

Copper plate:
The scientists used copper 111 as the surface of the animation — the same material they used 10 years ago when they built the first computer that performed digital computation operations.

Carbon monoxide (CO):
The scientists chose carbon monoxide atoms to move around the plate. Carbon monoxide has one carbon atom and one oxygen atom, stacked on top of each other.

 

The making of the world's smallest movie :

What are those waves around the atoms ?

When you’re watching our atom-sized movie, you’ll notice little ripples around the atoms. Those waves are a disturbance in the electron density in the copper atoms on a copper plate. When a carbon monoxide molecule comes close to the plate, the electrons in the copper atoms are displaced. Because they can’t escape the surface of the copper, they protrude (similar to the way water ripples — but doesn’t break the surface — when you throw a rock into a lake).

What does moving an atom sound like ?

When the scientists move atoms in their lab at IBM Research, they hear a crackling noise. That is the sound of the electric current that is produced in the scanning tunneling microscope when the carbon monoxide molecule follows the tip along the copper surface. The current is run through speakers so the scientists can hear it. In this way, they can listen to the change in the current and tell when the atoms they are moving are in different positions.

Why does the movie start with 12 atoms ?

The movie starts with 12 atoms to celebrate the breakthrough by IBM scientists of successfully using 12 atoms to store one bit of data — in our current technology, it takes 1,000,000 atoms to store one bit of data.

Why are the atoms in the movie sitting on a copper plate ? 

The scientists used copper because that element, in combination with carbon monoxide, produced the most stable atoms for moving.

 

Source :  http://www.research.ibm.com/


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