IBM unveils 'world's smallest movie' using atoms

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NEW YORK: IBM scientists Wednesday unveiled what they called “the world’s smallest movie,” which tracks the movement of atoms magnified 100 million times.

 

The film, “A Boy and His Atom,” depicts a character named Atom who  befriends a single atom and follows him on a journey of dancing and bouncing  that helps explain the science behind data storage.
 
“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, a scientist at 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 while opening up a dialogue with  students and others on the new frontiers of math and science.”    
 
To make the movie, the atoms were moved with an IBM-invented scanning  tunneling microscope, a device which earned its inventors a Nobel Prize.
 
The tool “was the first device that enabled scientists to visualize the  world all the way down to single atoms,” said IBM researcher Christopher Lutz.
 
“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.”  
 
The movie was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s Smallest Stop Motion Film,” IBM said.
 
The film used a microscope to control a super-sharp needle along a copper  surface to attract atoms and molecules and pull them to a precisely specified  location on the surface.
 
IBM said this kind of science is needed to help improve computer data  storage as tech firms run into into physical limitations using traditional  techniques.
 
“Research means asking questions beyond those required to find good  short-term engineering solutions to problems,” Heinrich said.
 
“As data creation and consumption continue to get bigger, data storage  needs to get smaller, all the way down to the atomic level. We’re applying the  same techniques used to come up with new computing architectures and  alternative ways to store data to making this movie.” - AFP

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