A Boy and His Atom

by Nancy Santagata

Four scientists at IBM have officially made the world’s smallest movie, “A Boy and His Atom,” in which the title characters dance and play together.  The ‘small’ comes in because the boy, appropriately named Adam, and his friend, an atom, are portrayed not by actors but by a collection of carbon monoxide (CO) molecules.  The movie frames were created with a scanning tunneling microscope, which is able to manipulate single atoms and small molecules one by one.

This is quite literally one of the coolest things that I have ever seen, and I encourage you to visit IBM’s Featured Research website to see lots of other videos related to the movie.  One thing in particular that I was super excited to learn is that two of the scientists, Susanne Baumann and Ileana Rau, are women!

A Boy and His Atom


About Nancy Santagata

nancy_nanoLike the scientists at IBM, I use cryogenic scanning tunneling microscopy to study the properties of atoms and molecules at surfaces and interfaces. I was introduced to the technique when I was in college and have been working in the field ever since!  This is a picture of me with my instrument, which very similar to the ones used to make the movie.


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