IBM's Art of Invention

The 'Art of Invention' is the name of an exhibit which opened last week at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Museum in Alexandria, Virginia. This exhibit, which will last one year, is featuring 70 works of art created through inventions, patents and trademarks. Two of these works have been provided by IBM and show images created using IBM's Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) in the early 1990s. IBM labeled these works as 'the world's tiniest art on display' and added they 'show nanotechnology at its finest.' The images are beautiful, but IBM's claim might be a little bit exaggerated: watch for example the NanoArt contest held earlier this year.

The 'Art of Invention' is the name of an exhibit which opened last week at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Museum in Alexandria, Virginia. This exhibit, which will last one year, is featuring 70 works of art created through inventions, patents and trademarks. Two of these works have been provided by IBM and show images created using IBM's Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) in the early 1990s. IBM labeled these works as 'the world's tiniest art on display' and added they 'show nanotechnology at its finest.' The images are beautiful, but IBM's claim might be a little bit exaggerated: watch for example the NanoArt contest held earlier this year.

IBM's STM Stadium Corral

You can see above the first image presented by IBM for this exhibit. "This atomic-sized image was created by IBM researchers and is part of an exhibit opening today at the United States Patent and Trademark Museum in Alexandria, Virginia. The image was made using scanning-tunneling microscope technology as part of an effort to pave the way for circuits made from atomic and molecular components." (Credit: Michael Crommie, Chris Lutz and Don Eigler, IBM) You'll have access to a larger version on this page.

In fact, IBM provides a great STM Image Gallery. You can browse the catalogue if you want. The image above is also featured in The Corral Reef gallery which provides additional details. "Intrigued with the possibility of observing 'Quantum Chaos,' the artists constructed a stadium shaped structure in the hopes of observing so-called 'scarring' of the density distribution of the surface state electron density. No scarring was observed. The reason is that the electrons don't bounce around in the corral before they escape beyond it borders. The corrals are leaky."

IBM's STM Quantum Corral

And you can see above the other image presented by IBM for the exhibit. "IBM scientists used scanning tunneling microscope technology to position 48 iron atoms in a circular ring in order to 'corral' some of the surface electrons and force them into quantum states determined by the circular corral walls." (Credit: Michael Crommie, Chris Lutz and Don Eigler, IBM) You'll have access to a larger version on this page.

Here some more details provided by the IBM's STM Image Gallery. "The discovery of the STM's ability to image variations in the density distribution of surface state electrons created in the artists a compulsion to have complete control of not only the atomic landscape, but the electronic landscape also. Here they have positioned 48 iron atoms into a circular ring in order to "corral" some surface state electrons and force them into "quantum" states of the circular structure. The ripples in the ring of atoms are the density distribution of a particular set of quantum states of the corral. The artists were delighted to discover that they could predict what goes on in the corral by solving the classic eigenvalue problem in quantum mechanics -- a particle in a hard-wall box."

Besides the images, the IBM press release mentioned above gives a precious timeline of the IBM's Nobel Prize-winning Scanning Tunneling Microscope. Keep this press release for future reference.

Sources: IBM press release, August 14, 2007; and various websites

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