Physicists Use an Ultrafast 'Atomic Hand' to control Atoms' Movements

As scientists manipulate the very beginning of our existence, they are achieving incredible results.

Earlier this year, a group of physicists from the University of Otago in New Zealand, managed to retain atoms one by one, and examine their interactions. This makes us think if we can control their movements?

It may seem inconceivable at first, but scientists in Regensburg and Zurich have managed to push the motion of an atom, with atomic-scale forces in less than a trillion seconds.



How did they do it?

Atomic Hand' to control Atoms' Movements

In 1990, Eigler and Schweizer found a way to position individual xenon atoms at low temperatures, on a single crystal nickel surface with atomic precision, using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM).

The STM it’s an old technology, which was invented in 1982. Inspired by the method, scientists in Regensburg and Zurich have taken it to the next level.

Thanks to the microscope’s fairly sharp needle used to detect atoms and scan them, scientists were able to check individual atoms and even molecules.

They took the already existing forces and used them to direct molecules, by projecting pulses of light onto the needle of the microscope.

Atoms vibrate at such an extreme speed that it is not entirely possible to interfere with their movement, let alone direct them. According to reports, their movement is faster than picoseconds (1ps = 0,000,000,000.001s).



What’s next?

Physicists Use an Ultrafast 'Atomic Hand' to control Atoms' Movements

The reason scientists chose to back it up with light is that light is an electromagnetic wave, and its “oscillating carrier wave” could create an ultra-fast force.

The force that surfaced by the oscillation of light could be directed towards the molecules.

The lead author of the new study, Dominik Peller said that they can use the needle exposed to light, as a super-fast atom-scale, ‘hand’ to push single atoms out of the molecule.

Surprisingly, scientists have literally manipulated the rotation of atoms.

Therefore, the forces applied to direct atoms have the potential to understand and control major processes, in chemistry and biology to develop single-molecule electronics technologies in the future.