We can look up at the sky and see the stars and nebulae and other galaxies with telescope and be excited by the strange interesting patterns the universe forms. We can also look in the other direction down towards the small and see new and strange and exciting patterns that are formed by these pieces of the universe that we're all made out of.
Researchers at IBM Research are trying to make a movie using atoms, it may sound like a simple concept but in reality, these atoms do take some concentration to work with because you want to get them in exactly the right spot.
We have a tool that allows us to move atoms on surfaces and build structures one atom at a time and we want to explore how can we use atoms on surfaces to do computation and data storage – Said by one of the scientists at IBM Research
I thought when I first heard that I'm gonna make a movie out of atoms I thought that's crazy – Susanne Baumann – P.H.D student, IBM Research
I was worried that it would be a lot of work moving these atoms and after we started making some of the frames, I realized that it's kind of cool and it's addictive – Ileana Rau – Post Doctoral Researcher, IBM Research
All actions of the movie made out of atoms are going to be right on top of one of these surfaces, so to make the animation they move molecules around one at a time to draw a little picture then save that picture and move on to the next frame to start to tell a story. This is a very challenging task because nobody as far as we know including those researchers at IBM Research has ever moved five thousand atoms.
For example, this is a boy built with all this carbon monoxide (CO) molecules and then some of them would have to shovel away to make it really be the movie frame. When we see the image in the microscope, we see it magnified about 100 million times, if an atom was the size of an orange then the orange would be the size of the whole planet Earth.
What we have been doing for the last 40 years is we've taken essentially the same silicon transistor and we scaled it down putting correspondingly more transistors on the same chip. Very recently what we have done is we've been interested in the magnetic properties of atoms on surfaces and really what we wanted to answer is a very simple question: How small can you make a magnet and still use it for data storage?
We know that we can make it stably out of a million atoms because that's what’s done in current technologies and we found that for the materials that we chose and that we're able to work with only twelve atoms is sufficient.
You could carry around not just you know two movies on your iPhone or something, you would carry around any movie that was ever produced.