Playing Pinball with Atoms

Many of you may have played pinball in an arcade before. How small is that pinball be? The size of a marble? The size of an ant? What if you could play pinball with something much much smaller? What's the smallest thing you can think of?

Researchers in the Netherlands have developed an atomic scale mechanical device by using electrical current to make two atom pairs behave like the flippers on a atomic-sized pinball machine.

On a piece of germanium, platinum atoms heated under a very high vacuum, which causes them to form dimer chains. Platinum dimers are structures that consist of two platinum atoms linked together. When electrons are injected into the platinum dimers using a scanning tunneling microscope tip, the atom pairs can switch to as many as six different configurations!

Source: ACS Publications

No comments: