1981 - IBM Opens World to the Science of the Small -- Nobel laureates Heinrich Rohrer (left) and Gerd Binnig (right) of IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory, shown here in 1981 with a first-generation scanning tunneling microscope (STM). Rohrer and Binnig were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1986 for inventing the STM. The STM provided scientists around the world with the specialized tools they needed to explore and manipulate materials at the atomic level for the first time, leading to new kinds of devices and structures built from the "bottom" up.
1981 - IBM's STM First Image of Silicon -- IBM's Scanning Tunneling Microscope in 1981 revealed for the first time the reconstruction of silicon atoms at the surface, here in an image enhanced by computer processing. Some 25 years later, IBM scientists continue to break new ground with scientific milestones in atomic scale research that could be the building blocks of ultra-tiny, nanoscale structures to transform computing and to create devices nobody has even imagined yet.
1989 - I-B-M Spelled in Xenon Atoms -- IBM Fellow and scientist Don Eigler is the first to controllably manipulate individual atoms on a surface, using the STM to spell out "I-B-M" by positioning 35 xenon atoms, and in the process, perhaps creating the world’s smallest corporate logo.
1989 - Moving Atoms -- IBM Fellow Don Eigler in front of a Scanning Tunneling Microscope. Together with Erhard Schweizer, they were the first ever to position individual atoms, spelling out the letters I-B-M with 35 xenon atoms.
1993 - IBM's Quantum Corral -- Driven by their discovery of the STM's ability to image the wave patterns (more precisely known as the "density distribution") of electrons on the surface of a metal, IBM Scientists Michael Crommie, Chris Lutz and Don Eigler (the "artists") were compelled to take the next step -- building an electron's "quantum state" to their own design. Here they have positioned 48 iron atoms into a circular ring in order to "corral" some of the surface electrons and force them into quantum states determined by the circular corral walls. The ripples in the ring of atoms are the wave patterns of some of the electrons that were trapped in the corral. The mechanics-turned-artists were delighted to discover that they could quantitatively account for the behavior of the electrons by solving a classic problem in quantum mechanics -- a particle in a hard-wall box -- paving the way for building functional quantum states for potential use in future computer chips and other areas
1993 - IBM's Making of a Circlular Quantum Corral -- Various stages of moving atoms to make a circular quantum corral out of Iron atoms on a copper surface.
1993 - IBM's Stadium Corral of Iron Atoms on Copper -- Intrigued with the possibility of observing "Quantum Chaos," the artists -- IBM "quantum mechanics" Michael Crommie, Chris Lutz and Don Eigler -- constructed a stadium shaped Quantum Corral in the hope of observing a signature of Quantum Chaos known as "scarring." Scarring of the electron wave patterns would lead to a build-up of waves along the classically periodic orbits of the stadium. No scarring was observed. The reason is quantum corrals are akin to any resonant structure, for instance, a bell. But this "quantum" bell doesn't ring very well, in fact it makes more of a thud than a ring.
1993 - Iron Atoms on Copper Quantum Corral Collage -- We see from this collection of different shaped corrals (including one with a double wall) some evidence that the scientists Michael Crommie, Chris Lutz and Don Eigler (the "artists") went through a period of infatuation with their creations. Despite having achieved structures of considerably greater complexity, it can be argued that they never surpassed the beauty of the original 48 atom circular shaped corral.
1993 - IBM's Rectangular Corral of Iron Atoms on Copper --Driven by their discovery of the STM's ability to image the wave patterns (more precisely known as the "density distribution") of electrons on the surface of a metal, IBM Scientists Michael Crommie, Chris Lutz and Don Eigler (the "artists") were compelled to take the next step -- building an electron's "quantum state" to their own design.
1993 - Atoms in Kanji -- IBM scientist continued exploring moving atoms with the STM. Here, they spell the Kanji characters for "atom" using iron atoms on a copper surface. The literal translation is something like "original child."
1993 - Carbon Monoxide Man - Showing their playful side, IBM researchers often left "surprises" for their fellow scientists in the lab STM notebook. In this case, one scientist manipulated carbon monoxide on a platinum surface, creating carbon monoxide man, who greeted his lab mates one morning.
1993 - Xenon on Nickel -- The IBM scientists wanted to answer the question: 'Where does xenon bind on a metal surface?' Using the STM, they observed not one, but two images overlayed directly on top of one another. The rectangular array of the little magenta bumps are the tops of nickel atoms from one image poking up through the other image. The images are of the same area of the nickel surface, just with and without the xenon atom (the big light blue bump in the center). Defects in the nickel surface are used to get precise registration information so the two images can be correctly overlayed. The computer was used to chop off the top of the xenon atom in order to peer through to the image of the surface without the xenon. When you look through the hole in the xenon atom you see a nickel atom located directly beneath. Evidently, xenon binds to the on-top site.
1996 - IBM Creates Worlds Smallest Abacus with Atoms -- The world's smallest abacus is created out of 10 carbon atoms by scientists at IBM, another major milestone in engineering at the nanoscale.
2000 - Quantum Mirage - IBM scientists have discovered a way to transport information on the atomic scale that uses the wave nature of electrons instead of conventional wiring. The new phenomenon, called the "quantum mirage" effect, may enable data transfer within future nanoscale electronic circuits too small to use wires. The scientists call it a mirage because they project information about one atom to another spot where there is no atom. The purple raised spot on the right of the image is a cobalt atom on a copper surface, and the purple dot on the left is the "mirage" of that atom.
2000 - Quantum Mirage in Action -- This four-part composite image shows the "quantum mirage" effect in action. When a magnetic cobalt atom is placed at a focus point of an elliptical corral (upper left), some of its properties also appear at the other focus (lower left), where no atoms exists. In this case, a change in the surface electrons due to the cobalt's mangetism -- the Kondo resonance -- appears as a bright spot at each focus. When the cobalt atom is placed elsewhere within the ellipse but not at a focus point (upper right), the mirage disappears (lower right), and the Kondo effect is detected only at the cobalt atom itself. This projection of information from an atom to another place where there is no atom was named the "quantum mirage" effect by the three IBM physicists who discovered it: Hari Manoharan, Christopher Lutz and Donald Eigler. In this case, the corral is made of 36 cobalt atoms positioned on a copper surface.
2002 -- Atomic Dominoes -- A molecular cascade consists of pairs of carbon monoxide (CO) molecules at nearest neighbor sites, plus a trigger molecule. Moving the trigger molecule with a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) tip starts the cascade, which then propagates the "signal" -- similiar to how information is passed on wires in today's chips -- to the end of the cascade without further involvement of the STM. Creating the first "chevron" configuration (three CO molecules in a slightly bent arrangement) causes the central CO molecule to tunnel outward to a new position, which sets up the second chevron. By positioning the molecules precisely, each chevron causes a molecule to move, setting up the next chevron and so on as the cascade continues. The IBM scientists have been exploring how this might be a useful way to send information in atomic-scale computing devices.
2004 - IBM Scientists Manipulate and Control Charge State of Atoms -- IBM scientists manipulate and control the charge state of individual atoms. This ability to add or remove an electron charge to or from an individual atom can help expand the scope of atom-scale research. Switching between different charge states of an individual atom could enable unprecedented control in the study of chemical reactivity, optical properties, or magnetic moment. This Scanning tunneling microscope (STM) false-color three-dimensional image shows two gold atoms on an insulating Sodium Chloride film surface. The atom on the left-hand side has been intentionally transferred from its neutral state into a negatively charged ion by means of STM manipulation.
2004 - IBM Develops Spin-Flip Spectroscopy Technique -- IBM scientists develop a new technique called “spin-flip spectroscopy” to study the properties of atomic-scale magnetic structures. They use this technique to measure a fundamental magnetic property of a single atom -- the energy required to flip its magnetic orientation.
2006 - IBM Explores Quantum Mechanics of Gold Atoms -- In a study investigating the fundamentals of molecular electronics, the quantum mechanical effects of attaching gold atoms to a molecule were elucidated. The work demonstrated that it is not only possible to control the atomic-scale geometry of a metal-molecule contact, but also its coupling strength and the phase of the orbital wave function at the contact point.
2006 - IBM Develops New Technique for Exploring and Controlling Atomic Magnetism -- IBM scientists develop a powerful new technique for exploring and controlling atomic magnetism, an important tool in the quest not only to understand the operation of future computer circuit and data-storage elements as they shrink toward atomic dimensions, but also to lay the foundation for new materials and computing devices that leverage atom-scale magnetic phenomena. This STM image is of 28 nanometer (nm) by 28nm area of the terraced copper and copper nitride surface where the IBM experiments were performed. The smooth flat surfaces are copper metal; the cross-hatched, slightly depressed areas are patches of insulating Copper Nitrate, which were created by implanting a sub-monolayer amount of nitrogen and heating the surface. The visible humps on the surfaces are the manganese structures (1-10 atoms long)
2006 - Understanding Atomic Magnetism -- IBM researchers built a chain of manganese atoms from two to 10 atoms in length atop an extremely thin electrically insulating surface. Using their new spin-excitation spectroscopy technique, the IBM researchers measured how the magnetic properties of the chain changed as each new atom was added. They found that chains with an even number of atoms had no net magnetism, while chains with an odd number of atoms showed net magnetism. The topography seen in the image represent the electron density surrounding each atom. Manganese atoms atop the surface appear as steep hills. Although the image shows the Mn electrons in the chain as a smooth ridge, each atom is separated by 0.36 nm, which is about 50 percent farther apart than they are separated in bulk manganese. Since much less current flows through the insulating copper nitride areas, it is an artifact of STM imaging that the CuN surface appears to be depressed below the surrounding plain copper m
2007 - IBM Brings MRI Technology to the Nanoscale -- The cantilever force sensor at the heart of IBM’s “nano-MRI” microscope measures just twelve hundredths of a millimeter in length and a tiny one ten-thousandth of a millimeter thick. IBM scientists have used this nano-MRI to visualize structures at resolution 60,000 times better than current magnetic resonance imaging technology allows. This technique brings MRI capability to the nanoscale level for the first time and represents a major milestone in the quest to build a microscope that could "see" individual atoms in three dimensions. With further development, applications could include understanding how individual proteins interact with drugs for discovery and development, and analyzing computer circuits only a few atoms wide.
2007 - IBM's Single-Atom Storage Building Block -- Illustration of the preferred magnetic orientation of an iron atom on a specially prepared copper surface. The ability of an atom to maintain its magnetic orientation can help determine that atom's suitability for storing data. As the atom's magnetic spin points in one direction, it can represent a "1", and in the other direction a "0", telling scientists that single-atoms may be suitable for storing the 1s and 0s known as bits, that enable information storage in computing devices. This represents a potential building block for atomic storage.
2007 - IBM's Computer Logic with Hydrogen Atoms -- Schematic three-dimensional image of a molecular "logic gate" of two naphthalocyanine molecules, which are probed by the tip of the low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope. By inducing a voltage pulse through the tip to the molecule underneath the tip (shown in the back), the two hydrogen atoms in the adjacent molecule (in white at the center of the molecule in front) change position and electrically switch the entire molecule from "on" to "off". This represents a rudimentary logic-gate, an essential component of computer chips and could be the building block for computers built from molecular components.
2008 - IBM Measures the Force to Move an Atom: The heart of the specialized Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) used by IBM Researchers to measure the force to move individual atoms. Approximate size: L=5cm (2"), W=4.5cm (1.8"), H=3 cm (1.2")
2008 - IBM Measures the Force to Move an Atom: The miniature "tuning fork" inside the AFM used in this IBM Research work. The tuning fork measures the interaction between the tip of the microscope and the atoms on a surface; when the tip is positioned close to an atom on the surface, the frequency of the tuning fork changes slightly. The frequency change can be analyzed to determine the force exerted on the atom. Approximate size of the view: 1.7cm (0.7") x 2.5cm (1").
2008 - IBM Measures the Force to Move an Atom: An even closer look at the miniature "tuning fork" inside the AFM used in this IBM Research work. The tuning fork measures the interaction between the tip of the microscope and the atoms on a surface; when the tip is positioned close to an atom on the surface, the frequency of the tuning fork changes slightly. The frequency change can be analyzed to determine the force exerted on the atom.
2008 - IBM Measures the Force to Move an Atom: The Atomic Force Microscope uses a sharp tip mounted on a flexible beam – akin to a tiny diving board – to measure the interaction between the tip and the atoms on a surface. In the present work, the flexible beam was actually a miniature quartz tuning fork of the type commonly found in clocks and wrist watches. When the tip is positioned close to an atom on the surface, the frequency of the tuning fork changes slightly. The frequency change can be analyzed to determine the force exerted on the atom.
2008 - IBM Measures the Force to Move an Atom: Illustration of an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) tip measuring the force it takes to move a cobalt atom on a crystalline surface. The ability to measure the exact force it takes to move individual atoms is one of the keys to designing and constructing the small structures that will enable future nanotechnologies.
2008 - IBM Measures the Force to Move an Atom: This image shows the dissipation signal -- the power needed to hold the cantilever oscillation stable -- when dragging cobalt atoms over a platinum surface.
2008 - IBM Measures the Force to Move an Atom: The measured energy landscape when dragging a cobalt atom over a copper surface (Cu(111)). The arrows show the forces that are acting on the AFM tip as it manipulates the molecules.
2008 - IBM Measures the Force to Move an Atom: The measured energy landscape when dragging a carbon monoxide molecule over a copper surface (Cu(111)). The arrows show the forces that are acting on the AFM tip as it manipulates the molecules.
Fun With Atoms: In between experiments, scientists at IBM's Almaden Research Lab in Silicon Valley had some fun creating this image, which is made of carbon monoxide molecules on a flat copper surface. The images were creating by moving atoms to spell "If you can read this, you are too close" Too close indeed, as the letters are just 1 nanometer wide and 1 nanometer tall. The molecules were moved using one of IBM's famous scanning tunneling microscopes.