The smallest quantity of an element, which has all of the properties of the element, is an atom. An atom is a microscopic structure found in all ordinary matter around us.
Atoms are extremely small, on the order of one to several nanometers wide. A nanoparticle would be a collection of tens to thousands of atoms measuring about 1 to 100 nanometers in diameter. As an example, it would take more than a million atoms to match the thickness of this book page.
WriTiNG with AToms
In 1989, scientists at the IBM Research Center in San Jose, California, conducted an interesting activity using atoms. The scientists manipulated 35
atoms of the gas xenon (Xe), to write the letters, IBM. IBM is the name of their company. The letters were 500,000 times smaller than the type size of letters used in printing this book. To place the atoms in the form of the three letters, the scientists used a special tip on scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to push the atoms into place. The bumps you see in the photo (p. 37) are individual atoms. They have been moved precisely into position, in a row, one half nanometer from each other.
See Chapter 3 for more information about nanotechnology microscopes.
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