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World’s Smallest Stop Motion Movie Made with Atoms!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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A darling stop motion video was released yesterday and is already a big hit. IBM took the challenge of moving 5,000 atoms around in order to create a short stop motion video, capturing the images using a scanning tunneling microscope.

How important is the scanning tunneling microscope in science? Half of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded jointly to Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer “for their design of the scanning tunneling microscope”.” Learn more about STM at the NobelPrize.org page.

From IBM’s description on their youtube channel:


“You’re about to see the movie that holds the Guinness World Records™ record for the World’s Smallest Stop-Motion Film. The ability to move single atoms — the smallest particles of any element in the universe — is crucial to IBM’s research in the field of atomic memory. But even nanophysicists need to have a little fun. In that spirit, IBM researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope to move thousands of carbon monoxide molecules (two atoms stacked on top of each other), all in pursuit of making a movie so small it can be seen only when you magnify it 100 million times. A movie made with atoms.

Watch it now!

You might be wondering how they did that! IBM thought it was important to explain this and to introduce us to the scientists who work on this and created a short behind the scenes documentary.

“This is a very challenging task because nobody, as far as we know, including ourselves, has moved 5,000 atoms.” says Andreas Heinrich, Principal Investigator, IBM Research

I’ve found more explanatory videos on their website.
Why are their ripples in the video? They are electrons!

How do you move an atom?

What is up with the sound of atoms? It is the sound of molecules following the STM tip along the surface.

I think this answered most of my questions. What are some of yours?

Joanne Manaster About the Author: Joanne Manaster is a university level cell and molecular biology lecturer with an insatiable passion for science outreach to all ages. Enjoy her quirky videos at www.joannelovesscience.com, on twitter @sciencegoddess and on her Facebook page at JoanneLovesScience Follow on Twitter @sciencegoddess.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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