Boy And His Atom: IBM Animates Molecules In Stop-Motion Story [VIDEOS]

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IBM is dipping its toe in the movie game – but if it’s latest offering wins any awards, it'll have to make a subatomic statuette.

“A Boy and His Atom” is a stop-motion film made by moving little arrangements of carbon monoxide molecules – made of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom – bit by bit. In the story, a crude figure (named, appropriately enough, Adam) meets up and plays with a tiny atom, which transforms into things like a trampoline and a skateboard:

To make the movie, IBM researchers used a tool attached to a scanning tunneling microscope that used a fine needle tip to move single molecules and atoms around. When the tip is held near a carbon monoxide molecule, there’s a chemical reaction that attracts it to the tip, which can be moved lightly to put the molecule down in a new location. The operation is performed at temperatures of about -260 degreees Celsius (that’s -460 Fahrenheit). IBM usually uses the tool as part of its research into new data storage methods, but in this case is hoping their molecular film will encourage kids to take an interest in science.

You can take a behind-the-scenes look at the movie in this video:

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