September 25, 2009 | Written by: IBM Research Editorial Staff
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On September 28, 1989, Don Eigler became the first person in history to move and control an individual atom. Shortly thereafter, with the help of a custom-built microscope, he and his team spelled out the letters I-B-M using individual atoms, signaling a quantum leap forward in the field of nanotechnology.
Eigler built his scanning tunneling microscope (STM) in order to visualize and experiment with individual molecules and atoms. As he experimented, he discovered that it was possible to pick up individual atoms and move them using the tip of his STM. To demonstrate this ability, he created the worlds tiniest IBM logo, made out of 35 Xenon atoms.
Because of Dr. Eiglers seminal work, scientists continue making breakthroughs that continue driving the field of nanotechnology, the exploration of building structures and devices out of ultra-tiny components as small as a few atoms or molecules. Such devices might be used as future computer chips, storage devices, biosensors, and things nobody has even imagined.