IBM has been busy exploring a new kind of final frontier. A very, very tiny one. In the pursuit of using atoms to miniaturize data storage, researchers at IBM use a machine that can move single atoms on a surface. Now, they’ve shared this amazing technique with the world through atom art, and they’ve got a handful of Star Trek atom images to show off. Hit the jump for more.
Imaging the Atom
Just as we look through a telescope to see the beautiful patterns of galaxies and nebulae in the night sky, scientists sometimes look through very powerful microscopes to see the beautiful patterns of the stuff we’re all made out of: atoms. Researchers at IBM use scanning tunneling microscopes to push the frontiers of the very small. The microscopes use an extremely fine tip to move single carbon monoxide molecules (that’s one carbon atom and one oxygen atom) around on a polished surface. Now, they’re turning that science into art with the smallest movie ever made, “A Boy and his Atom,” which is made up of several single frames from the microscope and strung together to make a moving film. Only one bump in each CO molecule, the oxygen, is visible in the images. The carbon sits between the oxygen and the surface and provides a grip that holds the molecule in place.
A Boy and His Atom
Star Trek Atom Art
The researchers have also done a few homage pieces to Star Trek and have pieced together the smallest enterprise model ever built. It stands only about 1 nanometer (that’s one billionth of a meter, making it a 1:83,000,000,000 model of the TOS Enterprise thing).
How’d they do it? See the Making Of
If you ask me, the best thing to come out of this project is the “Making of” video. It tells a great story of some researchers to pushed the boundaries of what they do to share a story of cutting edge science with the world.
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