World’s Smallest Enterprise is Only One Nanometer: IBM Makes Trek Art Out of Single Atoms

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).

The Atom Enterprise
The world’s smallest Enterprise

Nanometer Scale
The ship’s only 1 nm (one nanometer) thick!

Live long, and prosper

StarTrek Logo
The full star trek logo and delta

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.


Follow me on Twitter: @kaylai.

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I must say, that stuff is pretty damn cool. Can’t wait for the 17th!

That’s quit a small market to advertise this movie too?\

Nanites. They never pay for anything!

That is one of the great things of Star Trek. It inspires scientists to explore new frontiers in science. Truly going where no man has gone before.

Saw this yesterday and it has to be one of the most amazing videos ever created. We are living in amazing times!

And on another level…

Sorry, Buckaroo!

The world premiere is happening, and you are posting this?

#3. My wife actually tried to make fun of me once for watching Star Trek, after I ridiculed her for watching The Bachelor. Not the same thing. No one became a scientist, astronaut or engineer after watching The Bachelor.

And I thought my TOS Enterprise model in 1/2500 scale was small…

This is some amazing stuff!

How about a mini atom-movie of the Enterprise in a space battle with a Klingon Bird of Prey!

I can say with confidence that this wows me more than “Into Darkness” will …

@ Kapten Kerk

At least the REAL Trek did. All JJ Trek does is to inspire people to buy popcorn and to switch of their brains.

Is this for real? Just amazing. Like magic…

@7 That is so true. Great shows like Star Trek, heck even mediore TV, has the power to make our world better. It inspires us to become better and to do great things. Sadly, much of what is on TV nowadays does not inspire. In fact, it is safe to say that it discourages.

Nice to see JJ’s Trek instilling the pioneering spirit into these good men and women at IBM. I love that they love Star Trek and honor it in such a unique way!

Kayla! You are back! Welcome back!

Thanks for posting this cool article.

When will you start posting Saturdays Science articles again?

Awe inspiring and amazing.

First, WELCOME BACK KAYLA!!! This story is amazing. Man is manipulating atoms. Fascinating.

Second, there’s a hot and heavy debate about the clip from STID where the Enterprise is suffering from severe gravity distress. TrekMovie link below. Vorus doesn’t like the scene because he says it’s unrealistic because gravity doesn’t operate that way.

I say we need our Science Gal, Kayla, (like Bill Nye , The Science Guy) to address this debate. What do you say Kayla? Could be a thought provoking story.

Very cool!

Wild stuff.
Movies like this must save a bundle on sets and actors. But, can they do lens flares?

s p e e c h l e s s :o

Also note it is the TMP 1701. Cooooool

Amazing, we live in the world Gene imagined.

@14: Sad truth is, it has nothing to do with the new stuff. The reboots inspire no one to do anything. They are just good entertainment.

It’s safe to say that JJTrek will not inspire people to engineering feats like this. In 20 yrs no will be saying they were inspired to change the world because of Red Matter.

At least these guys got the design of the Enterprise right.

“It’s safe to say that JJTrek will not inspire people to engineering feats like this.”

Probably not directly, no. I think that is unreasonable to expect any movie, or set of movies, to do that.

If the success of these movies does lead to the development of a new TV series – where the thoughtful ‘science’ can be presented as one part of an engaging show week after week – this may similarly help to inspire the next generation to take up the sciences at a greater rate than the currently abysmal levels we are seeing.

Delete /*similarly*/ – I modified my post part-way through…