MRI machine images atoms

The ability to see the smallest building blocks of the universe is now a reality. Using nanoscale magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists were recently able to image individual atoms.

Many believe the new ability will help unlock the realm of quantum computing. However, that is far from the limit of this new technology. Who knows, maybe a real-life Ant-Man is right around the corner. With the ability to get a detailed look at the atoms that make up everything, humanity will be able to make unprecedented advances across almost all fields.

Not a Normal MRI

Athletes and many other patients are well-accustomed to the cold, noisy donut tube that is an MRI machine. Traditionally, they help capture detailed images of the human body’s soft tissues and organs.


By manipulating radio waves and magnets, a standard MRI machine momentarily changes the direction in which protons spin. Once the magnets turn off, the protons release energy by returning to their regular rotation. Computers then analyze this discharge and translate it into a digital image.

A joint team of researchers from the United States and South Korea uncovered the new technique. The group published their work in the journal Nature Physics.

By using magnetized iron atoms in conjunction with a scanning tunneling microscope, the team was able to image single atoms. Just like a normal MRI, when the magnetized microscope disrupts the subatomic particles in the atoms, the researchers can capture an image of the energy discharge.

World of Possibilities

Just like the discovery of cells, bacteria, and viruses, being able to see individual atoms has the potential to reshape science. The research team behind the nano-MRI hopes it may lead to the development of new drugs.

Meanwhile, the implications of the tech will likely stretch far beyond healthcare. The ability to see atoms could catalyze the creation of new materials for building and tech. Perhaps one aftereffect of this discovery will be that it leads to advances in quantum computing. Since nanotechnology is necessary to build a quantum computer, being able to clearly visualize the materials involved may be the key to turning this science-fiction dream into reality.

Christopher Lutz, a researcher on the team, said, “We can now see something that we couldn’t see before. So our imagination can go to a whole bunch of new ideas that we can test out with this technology.”

With this amazing imaging technique, there is hardly a limit to the new ideas that researchers can explore in the future.

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