IBM Photographs Atomic Bonds Using Record Player-Like Technology

Researchers at the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) have taken the first direct images of a series of Carbon atoms and their atomic bonds. The same group of researchers were previously responsible for measuring the charge on a single atom.

How Did IBM Take Images Of Atomic Bonds?

The tool used by researchers at IBM to take photographs of atomic bonds is called an Atomic Force Microscope or sometimes called a Scanning Force Microscope. How the Atomic Force Microscope function works is by bringing the end of a sharp-tipped, needle-like object at the end of a cantilever, with much likeness to a record player arm, in close proximity to a series of atoms. The forces of the atoms move the tip in various directions, which in turn provides measurement data. The Atomic Force Microscope works much like a record player, but instead of producing music from based on the shape of the material it is examining it records data regarding electromagnetic forces. This of course is very finicky, requiring the device to be at extremely low temperatures and in a vacuum. Generally, silicon or silicon nitride is used for the cantilever, or the arm, of the device but in IBM’s case the researchers used a carbon monoxide tip to measure.

Why Are IBMs Images Of Atomic Bonds Important?

What is really interesting about this is how close the image is to the models already developed. As a general rule in chemistry texts, the validity of the images and models used for atoms is in question; they are seen as useful models that work fairly well but do not necessarily reflect reality. However, the images taken are extremely close to the ball-and-stick model used in chemistry and organic chemistry to explain bonding principles. As such, this research promises to change both computing and chemistry by cementing some of the claims already made and giving insights into the reason others are so.

What Is The Future Of IBM’s Atomic Research?

The research results from IBM’s Atomic Force Microscope experiments combined with other techniques promise to give new insights into the nature of atoms and their parts, as well as new innovations in computing. For instance, rather than using miniscule mechanical parts for computing, individual molecules and their charges can potentially be used. This may potentially lower computer sizes dramatically, as well as solving many of the heat-related issues that plague current micro cheap development.

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