In 1989, IBM publicly demonstrated to the world that they had such fine control of an atom they were capable of locking it in place and taking a picture of it leveraging a Scanning Tunneling Microscope.
The first publicly released image produced by IBM had their logo:
The logo’s size is 50 atoms in width.
So you have some idea of this truly minute scale, a human hair is about 1,000,000 atoms wide.
Not long after, they created a film featuring 242 frames in ‘stop motion’, the smallest film ever produced according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The film and article can be found here (http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/154664-ibm-creates-worlds-smallest-movie-with-a-handful-of-precisely-placed-atoms)
The placement of the atom is done through Quantum Tunneling.
The same technique was used to give homage to Star Trek fans who server in part to inspire IBM’s work.
There’s two primary reasons for the research, according to IBM:
- Miniaturization of data storage devices.
This makes for smaller hard drives, higher capacity memory cards, etc.
- Increase performance on computer processors by miniaturizing the electron pathways.
Moore’s law notwithstanding, IBM contributes to other companies such as Intel by figuring out physical limitations and how to mitigate physical problems through research and testing prior to production.