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Date: 01-05-13

IBM scientists create images of a movie by aligning and placing atoms

Electronics devices such as semiconductor memory use large number of atoms to store single bit of data. Reducing the size of MOSFETs memory cell used to store a single bit of data in semiconductor memory is getting tough to scale further down of 14nm and the cost-economics theory suggests further scaling down using lithography technique is not worth. The new thought among nano technology researchers is to align atoms to store data. IBM researcher have tried to create a image frames for a movie by placing and aligning atoms. The movie created using such technique named “A Boy and His Atom,” used thousands of precisely placed atoms to create nearly 250 frames of stop-motion action.

Andreas Heinrich, Principle Investigator, IBM Research says: Capturing, positioning and shaping atoms to create an original motion picture on the atomic-level is a precise science and entirely novel.

The atoms were moved using IBM-invented scanning tunneling microscope. “This Nobel Prize winning tool was the first device that enabled scientists to visualize the world all the way down to single atoms,” said Christopher Lutz, Research Scientist, IBM Research. “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.”

IBM 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. The moving atom makes a unique sound that is critical feedback in determining how many positions it’s actually moved.

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