How Much Force Does It Take...

... to move a single atom?

Scientists at IBM have collaborated with the University of Regensburg in Germany to measure the tiny forces it takes to move individual atoms on a surface. About twenty years ago, IBM's Don Eigler made history by writing I-B-M with individual Xenon atoms. Today, a new set of researchers are looking at the forces required to move atoms over different surfaces. A cobalt atom requires 210 piconewtons to move across a smooth platinum surface, but only requires 17 piconewtons to move across a copper surface. How much is a piconewton? Well, the force required to lift a copper penny that weighs only three grams is nearly 30 billion piconewtons! So the forces needed to move atoms are really tiny!

Researchers use a powerful microscope called an atomic force microscope to measure the strength and direction of the force applied on an atom. A sharp tip on the end of a flexible beam (like a tiny diving board!) is used to move the atoms and make sensitive measurements.

Why is it important to understand these forces? The key to future nanotechnologies lies in being able to manipulate tiny atoms to create atomic-scale structures for future computer chips, medical devices, and more!

Source: IBM Scientists First to Measure Force Required to Move Individual Atoms

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that if the future of nanotechnology relies on understanding the forces applied to atoms, the forces generated by them should also be researched. Atoms could be a power source that noone has imagined yet.