35 Atoms That Changed the Nanoworld
Vol. 5, Num. 4
Toumey celebrates the twentieth anniversary of Don Eigler and Erhard Schweizer spelling out IBM with xenon atoms on a nickel surface by adding a third hero to the nanotechnological canon in this feat: the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). While these two scientists certainly did not invent the device or its younger cousin, the atomic force microscope, their commercial application of its capabilities had an enormous impact in many ways. Not only was their ability to first drag but then pick up and drop down xenon atoms on a nickel surface a huge breakthrough in the ability of scientists to manipulate matter on the nanoscale, but spelling out the name of one of the preeminent computer companies gave the gesture instant capital with the public. For Toumey and many others in the field, the breakthroughs of Eigler and Schweizer are every bit as breathtaking today as they were in 1990; in his postscript, Toumey tells of a delighted child who Eigler showed how to move an atom using the STM, suggesting that future generations will be as excited about nanotechnologys promise as is the author.