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Moving Individual Atoms ?

  1. Sep 24, 2010 #1


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    "Moving Individual Atoms"?


    I recently read an article about this video - IBM moving individual xenon atoms to create the IBM logo.

    I'm not sure I understand what they're doing in this video - are they using a computer to simulate/show what this would look like if the atoms really were that shape? I was under the impression that we aren't certain that atoms are particles because of the wave-like properties they can exhibit (for example, C60 molecule in double-slit experiment). A number of things don't make sense for me, such as why they aren't moving (they don't seem to obey Heinsenberg's uncertainty principle either since they seem to know exactly where they are - but is the computer simply using a probability density function to give the user an idea of the rough location of the atom?).

    I also saw this picture: http://www.foresight.org/utf/unbound_lbw/pictures/ibm.gif [Broken]

    So what are they moving? Apologies if this is a stupid question, but I'm just confused, since atoms should be made up of smaller sub-atomic particles, and, on top of that, we shouldn't be seeing that kind of picture because of wave-particle duality, correct?

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 24, 2010 #2


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    Re: "Moving Individual Atoms"?

    They are moving atoms using a Scanning-Tunneling Microscope. It's a 'real' image, not a computer 'simulation'.

    Who says the atoms don't obey Heisenberg's uncertainty principle? The uncertainty in the location of a Xenon atom is well below the resolution of the STM used here.

    What you are seeing specifically is the electronic charge density/density of states. You are not measuring the precise location of any particular electron, and therefore you don't see particles, you see 'waves' of electron density, which can even form http://www.colorado.edu/physics/phys3220/phys3220_sp06/images/stm.gif" [Broken]. That's exactly what the 'wave-particle duality' would predict.

    If the Uncertainty Principle stopped atoms from having definite locations (on the atomic scale), then chemical compounds would not be geometrically stable.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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