In this webcast IBM Fellow Grady Booch discusses the critical role engineering plays in moving society forward. And he explores the history of science and engineering. This interesting webcast would be a good video to show children, or anyone, to bring out the desire to study engineering and encourage them to study so they can join the many engineers shaping our world and our future.
The delicate inner structure of a pentacene molecule imaged with an atomic force microscope. For the first time, scientists achieved a resolution that revealed the chemical structure of a molecule. The hexagonal shapes of the five carbon rings in the pentacene molecule are clearly resolved. Even the positions of the hydrogen atoms around the carbon rings can be deduced from the image. (Pixels correspond to actual data points). Image courtesy of IBM Research – Zurich
IBM scientists have been able to image the “anatomy” — or chemical structure — inside a molecule with unprecedented resolution. “Though not an exact comparison, if you think about how a doctor uses an x-ray to image bones and organs inside the human body, we are using the atomic force microscope to image the atomic structures that are the backbones of individual molecules,” said IBM Researcher Gerhard Meyer. “Scanning probe techniques offer amazing potential for prototyping complex functional structures and for tailoring and studying their electronic and chemical properties on the atomic scale.”
The AFM uses a sharp metal tip to measure the tiny forces between the tip and the sample, such as a molecule, to create an image. In the present experiments, the molecule investigated was pentacene. Pentacene is an oblong organic molecule consisting of 22 carbon atoms and 14 hydrogen atoms measuring 1.4 nanometers in length. The spacing between neighboring carbon atoms is only 0.14 nanometers—roughly 1 million times smaller then the diameter of a grain of sand. In the experimental image, the hexagonal shapes of the five carbon rings as well as the carbon atoms in the molecule are clearly resolved. Even the positions of the hydrogen atoms of the molecule can be deduced from the image.
The researchers demonstrated this imaging at a resolution 100 million times finer than current MRI. The advance could lead to important medical applications and is powerful enough to see bacteria, viruses and proteins, say the researchers.
The researchers said it offered the ability to study complex 3D structures at the “nano” scale. The step forward was made possible by a technique called magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM), which relies on detecting very small magnetic forces.
In addition to its high resolution, MRFM has the further advantage that it is chemically specific, can “see” below surfaces and, unlike electron microscopy, does not destroy delicate biological materials.
Now, the IBM-led team has dramatically boosted the sensitivity of MRFM and combined it with an advanced 3D image reconstruction technique. This allowed them to demonstrate, for the first time, MRI on biological objects at the nanometre scale.
IBM scientists have made major progress in probing a property called magnetic anisotropy in individual atoms. This fundamental measurement has important technological consequences because it determines an atom’s ability to store information. Previously, nobody had been able to measure the magnetic anisotropy of a single atom.
With further work it may be possible to build structures consisting of small clusters of atoms, or even individual atoms, that could reliably store magnetic information. Such a storage capability would enable nearly 30,000 feature length movies or the entire contents of YouTube – millions of videos estimated to be more than 1,000 trillion bits of data – to fit in a device the size of an iPod. Perhaps more importantly, the breakthrough could lead to new kinds of structures and devices that are so small they could be applied to entire new fields and disciplines beyond traditional computing.
In the second report, IBM researchers unveiled the first single-molecule switch that can operate flawlessly without disrupting the molecule’s outer frame — a significant step toward building computing elements at the molecular scale that are vastly smaller, faster and use less energy than today’s computer chips and memory devices.
In addition to switching within a single molecule, the researchers also demonstrated that atoms inside one molecule can be used to switch atoms in an adjacent molecule, representing a rudimentary logic element. This is made possible partly because the molecular framework is not disturbed.