IBM Research uses atoms to make world’s smallest movie

1 May 2013

A still from A Boy and His Atom

Scientists from technology giant IBM have employed a two-tonne microscope to make a film with one of the tiniest elements in the universe, atoms. A Boy and His Atom is comprised of thousands of precisely placed atoms to create nearly 250 frames of stop-motion action.

The film, said IBM, represents a unique way to convey science outside the research community, and Guinness World Records has certified the film as the World’s Smallest Stop-Motion Film.

The star of A Boy and His Atom is a boy named Atom, who befriends an atom and embarks on a journey that includes dancing, playing catch and bouncing on a trampoline. The film runs at just over a minute and a half.

“Capturing, positioning and shaping atoms to create an original motion picture on the atomic level is a precise science and entirely novel,” said Andreas Heinrich, principle investigator, IBM Research.

“At IBM, researchers don’t just read about science, we do it. This movie is a fun way to share the atomic-scale world while opening up a dialogue with students and others on the new frontiers of math and science.”

In order to make A Boy and His Atom, scientists used the IBM-invented scanning tunneling microscope to control a probe that pulled and arranged atoms for stop-motion shots used in the 242-frame film.

The two-tonne microscope operates at -268°C.

Watch A Boy and His Atom here:


Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic