Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Manipulating The Atom (A Short Animation)

Atomic animation is just the start...

Manipulating The Atom.
Copyright: University of West Humbershire.
(Used with kind permission.)
This week at Tomorrow's Technology Today we take a look at rather an unusual topic as we feature a short animation featuring stick figures.  It's a stop-motion animation created by the Department of Atomic Physics at the University of West Humbershire, but what makes the video ground-breaking is that the animated images were created by manipulating individual atoms to create very basic stick figure sketches.

As you can see when you watch the video below, it's not going to win any awards for amimation*, but the project was more about demonstrating what can be done at a sub-molecular level, rather than producing a piece of entertainment.

* Ironically, since this article was written the video has actually won an award in the 'Groundbreaking Animation Techniques' category at the annual Xenial Animation Awards.  The category recognises creative animation techniques, however, rather than the quality of the animation itself, and the point our staff writer was trying to make is that the video is obviously intended more as a scientific demonstration, rather than as a piece of entertainment.

The video is entitled 'Manipulating The Atom (A Short Animation)' and it features a character named Adam trying to impress the ladies on the dance floor with his dance moves...

Manipulating The Atom (A Short Animation) from TTech Today on Vimeo.

As you'll no doubt have noticed, the animation is extremely basic and at this stage the atomic manipulation process is still at its very early stages, so they're effectively still discovering what they can and can't do to manipulate individual atoms.  However, Professor Jeremiah Starkings from the Department of Atomic Physics is confident that within a few years the process could have practical applications in the use of meta-materials and nano-engineering.  When you think back to early 8 bit video console systems and compare them with the graphics you see today, that gives you an idea of the potential for exponential developement this atomic manipulation technique could see over the next few decades.

The sub-molecular technique used in the 'Manipulating The Atom'
video could have many other practical applications....
Excitingly, the next step is to go one step lower and manipulate the actual components of an atom, namely electrons, protons, neutrons and quarks for example.  Any amateur chemists out there who were paying attention at school will remember that if you can alter the number of protons and electrons in an atom you can change it from one substance to another, so in effect you could potentially create valuable and exotic materials from cheap readily accessible substances. You could arguably say that Prof Burrough's team have already discovered the secret of alchemy as they have already had limited success with this process, creating gold from a starting material of thallium.

However, before you get too excited, I should perhaps point out that two weeks work yielded a mere seventeen gold atoms.  The technique therefore apparently needs refined before it has any practical value, as obviously seventeen atoms worth of gold wouldn't be worth much at today's market value!

If future atomic manipulation developments were to make progress at a similar rate of development to computers though, then the production of practical quantities of gold could possibly become a reality within the next few decades.

Scroll down the page for a guide to the science behind the atomic manipulation technique used in the 'Manipulating The Atom' video...

Please note, 'Manipulating The Atom (A Short Video) wasn't produced by manipulating individual atoms.  This whole article was completely made up and is in no way true.  Professor Jeremiah Starkings and the Department of Atomic Physics at the University of West Humbershire don't exist, and to reiterate again, everything in this article is complete fabrication.

This story was written by Charles Fudgemuffin, author of the alien comedy 'How To Save The World' books.  You can currently download the first book in the series for free from Amazon, Payhip, Smashwords, iTunes, Kobo and Noisetrade.

Caution: The 'How To Save The World' books are not recommended for prudes or squares.