Scientists see location of 23,000 atoms in huge PC boost
For the first time in history, scientists have seen the exact coordinates of 6,569 iron and 16,627 platinum atoms in a nanoparticle small enough to fit inside a single cell wall.
A group of US experts used a scanning electron microscope to get up close and personal with a particle made up of iron (Fe) and platinum (Pt) that was just 8.4 nanometers wide, with a nano metre being a billionth of a metre.
Explaining why this is significant, Michael Farle, a physicist at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, wrote in an accompanying News and Views article in Nature: "At the nanoscale, every atom counts.
"For example, changing the relative positions of a few Fe and Pt atoms in a FePt nanoparticle dramatically alters the particle's properties, such as its response to a magnetic field.”
Colin Ophus and Florian Nickel
The iron and platinum nanoparticles
The implications of the research are that in the future, scientists will be able to manipulate material at the smallest level, improving the quality and function of an item.
The technology will one day be used to improve hard drives
For example, makers of computer hard drives want to create tiny magnetic crystals with maximum performance, as weaker ones can have a detrimental affect when storing binary data.
Mary Scott, from the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said: "Our research is a big step in this direction.
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The Apple I computer developed by Steve Wozniack released in 1976
“We can now take a snapshot that shows the positions of all the atoms in a nanoparticle at a specific point in its growth.
“This will help us learn how nanoparticles grow atom by atom, and it sets the stage for a materials-design approach starting from the smallest building blocks.”