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IBM creates ‘world’s smallest video’ by moving individual atoms

The ‘world’s smallest video’ has been released by IBM, with the company manipulating individual atoms to create the stop-motion movie.

Entitled ‘A boy and his atom’, the IBM stop-motion video was recorded over 242 frames, with content magnified a staggering 100 million times in order to let viewers see the individual atoms moving to create the warming images of a simple story.

As well as highlighting how far research has come at an atomic level, the IBM video demonstrates the company’s studies in moving atoms as a means of potentially more refined data storage.

“At IBM Research, we move atoms to explore the limits of data storage,” the company stated. They light-heartedly added: “To explore the limits of filmmaking, we created the world’s smallest movie.”

With data storage transistors currently requiring roughly 1 million atoms to carry out their duty, IBM has discovered methods of performing the same tasks with just 12 atoms.

With each frame measuring in at just 45 nanometres by 25 nanometres, the IBM Research teams was forced to create the film at minus 268 degrees Celsius in order to prevent the atoms moving around of their own accord.

“This movie is a fun way to share the atomic-scale world,” Andreas Heinrich, IBM’s principal scientist for the project said. “The reason we made this was not to convey a scientific message directly, but to engage with students, to prompt them to ask questions.”

He added: “The cold “makes life simpler for us,” Heinrich said. “The atoms hold still. They would move around on their own at room temperature.”

Looking at the further applications of the technologies show, Heinrich stated: “As data creation and consumption continue to get bigger, data storage needs to get smaller, all the way down to the atomic level.”


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