A Boy and His Atom

IBM researchers have created the world’s smallest movie, a 90-second stop motion animation made by moving a few dozen carbon atoms with a scanning tunneling microscope.

The video is viewable once you magnify it 100 million times, and would take 1,000 frames laid side by side to equal the width of a human hair.

Via the BBC:

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 physics.

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‚Ķ

…The effort, detailed in a number of YouTube videos, took four scientists two weeks of 18-hour days to pull off.

It underlines the growing ability of scientists to manipulate matter on the atomic level, which IBM scientists hope to use to create future data storage solutions.

IBM reports that while it currently takes about a million atoms to store a bit of data on computer devices, they have successfully reduced that number down to 12 with what they call atomic-scale magnetic memory. Meaning, the future of computing devices is about to get very, very small.

For example, “Being able to increase the data density of devices means more storage in a smaller space: specifically, storage that is 100 times denser than today’s hard disk drives, 150 times more dense than solid-state memory. An entire music and movie collection could fit on a charm-sized pendant around your neck.”

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