At IBM, researchers study the limits of data storage by moving atoms and exploring how they interact with their surroundings. Now, granted, that’s technically an accurate description of any kind of research – what’s more impressive is that IBM has been moving individual atoms. As a proof of concept, they decided to produce the world’s smallest movie.
Built using carbon monoxide atoms, IBM’s film “A Boy and His Atom” is two things – one, it’s a test to see to what extent we can manipulate and explore the atomic world, and two, a declaration that science can inspire creativity.
According to the chief researcher Andreas Heinrich, one of the main reasons for creating the movie was to make something accessible and inspiring. “If [by making this movie] I can get 100 kids to join science rather than go into law school, I’d be super happy.”
To create “A Boy and His Atom,” IBM researchers employed two scanning tunneling electron microscopes to locate atoms and then reposition them so that they could be used in the film. Once the first microscope located the atoms, the second microscope, armed with an extremely small tip, dragged each atom into position by means of chemical interaction. Once in position, researchers snapped a photo of the assembled atoms, creating a “frame” for the movie. All in all, 242 of these frames were required to tell the story of “A Boy and His Atom”.
While the science that went into creating the movie is fascinating, perhaps the most important aspect of IBM’s movie was crystalized by one of its producers Ileana Rau. “The ability to do something just because you find it interesting is a really important thing, particularly for research, because that’s how you stumble across things that are new.”
Watch A Boy And His Atom:
And the Making of Video:
Images and Video Courtesy of IBM