IBM Goes Atomic for Stop-Motion Film

By Guinness World Records
A Boy and His Atom

As any grade-school science student learned, atoms are often known as the smallest building blocks of matter. And as any popcorn-purchasing moviegoer knows, cinema dominates the biggest screens.

But IBM Research Laboratories has now married the two, using real-life atoms to set a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS feat for creating the smallest stop-motion film.

The IBM scientists used thousands of atoms to create 242 frames of stop-motion action, resulting in the final product, titled “A Boy and His Atom.” The record-breaking film was verified to have a frame size of 45 nanometres by 25 nanometres (45 x 25 billionths of a meter) and was developed in San Jose, California, USA, between 29 January and 6 February. The film (a frame of which is pictured above) lasts 60 seconds and shows the story of a boy named Atom, who befriends an atom and goes on to dance, play catch, and even bounce on a trampoline. Check out the movie in full:

IBM used its own Scanning Tunneling Microscope technology to move the atoms, operating the microscope at a temperature of negative 268 degrees Celsius with the ability to magnify the atomic surface more than 100 million times.

“Moving atoms is one thing; you can do that with the wave of your hand. 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 and show everyday people the challenges and fun science can create.”