IBM makes world's smallest movie by filming atoms

Updated: 2013-05-02 14:31


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Scientists from IBM on Wednesday unveiled the world's smallest movie, made with one of the tiniest elements in the universe: atoms.

Named "A Boy and His Atom," the movie used thousands of precisely placed atoms to create nearly 250 frames of stop-motion action. It depicts a character named Atom who befriends a single atom and goes on a playful journey that includes dancing, playing catch and bouncing on a trampoline.

"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, principle investigator for the research in a statement.

"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," Heinrich said.

IBM used a remotely operated scanning tunneling microscope to make the movie earlier this year. The microscope operates at a temperature of negative 268 degrees Celsius and magnifies the atomic surface over 100 million times.

Researchers used the microscope to control a super-sharp needle along a copper surface to "feel" atoms. Only 1 nanometer away from the surface, which is a billionth of a meter in distance, the needle can physically attract atoms and molecules on the surface and thus pull them to a precisely specified location on the surface.

In the end, the scientists rendered still images of the individually arranged atoms, resulting in 242 single frames.

IBM makes world's smallest movie by filming atoms

IBM makes world's smallest movie by filming atoms

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