A Small But Moving Matter
I would be remiss if I didn’t relate the anniversary of September 28.
On this day, in 1989, IBM Fellow Don Eigler became the first person in history to move and control an individual atom.
It sounds like such a small thing…and it was. Extremely small.
The moving of the atom, that is.
The event itself was monumental and groundbreaking.
Shortly after, on November 11 of that year, Eigler and his team used a custom-built microscope to spell out the letters “IBM” using 35 Xenon atoms.
This unprecented ability to manipulate individual atoms signaled a quantum leap forward in nanoscience experimentation and heralded the age of nanotechnology.
Eigler built his scanning tunneling microscope (STM) in order to visualize and experiment with individual molecules and atoms. As he experimented, he discovered that it was possible to slide individual atoms across a surface using the tip of his STM.
To demonstrate both the atomic precision and reproducibility he achieved, he wrote the letters “IBM” with 35 xenon atoms, each positioned with atomic-scale precision.
In so doing, Eiger and team helped science move down the road of better understanding the properties, movement and interaction of various materials at the nanoscale, which proved to be essential for building smaller, faster and more energy-efficient processors and memory devices.
Already, the ability to understand and manipulate atoms is leading to new kinds of fabrics, products and more.
Ever wonder what makes a raincoat water resistant, or how sunscreen stays put even after swimming? More often than not, it’s nanotechnology at work.
Because of Eigler’s seminal work, scientists continue making breakthroughs that continue driving the field of nanotechnology, the exploration of building structures and devices out of ultra-tiny components as small as a few atoms or molecules.
Such devices might be used as future computer chips, storage devices, biosensors, and things nobody has even imagined.
Check out the two minute video below which includes a demonstration of the World’s Smallest IBM logo, along with a very interesting interview with Don Eigler.
And congratulations to Don and his team…theirs was a huge and groundbreaking effort on a ridiculously small scale, which is just the way his colleagues like it.