New imaging technique performs MRI scans of individual atoms

Scientists have developed a new MRI technique that can capture images of individual atoms.

The breakthrough was the work of researchers out of the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, and the Institute for Basic Sciences in Seoul, South Korea, according to a new report from the New York Times.

The team blended traditional MRI technology with a scanning tunneling microscope to capture the images. The tip of the microscope is “just a few atoms wide” and it picks up the tiniest of details when it is moved along the surface of an object.

“It’s a really magnificent combination of imaging technologies,” said A. Duke Shereen, director of the MRI Core Facility at the Advanced Science Research Center in New York, as quoted by the New York Times. “Medical MRIs can do great characterization of samples, but not at this small scale.”

Christopher Lutz, a physicist for IBM, told the newspaper that this technology could prove to be a game-changer.

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

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