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Author Topic: How delicate is a single atom?  (Read 5885 times)

Offline Karen W.

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How delicate is a single atom?
« on: 07/01/2008 14:21:56 »
 My Question stems from Neils about what the tiniest thing we can see with technology is? Given how tiny an atom is, and using this "Scanning Tunneling Microscope," they were able to see it, but what about moving them and manipulating them?


With them being so tiny wouldn't they be vulnerable as far as crushing them?

Individually how tough is an atom? I mean it seems something that being that tiny They would be so delicate and fragile. In its own structure or physical form just how delicate is an atom?

I mean they seem they would be so delicate, but when I think I must be walking on them every day. Then I think well they must be tougher then I am thinking in their structure..???

What happens when you crush an atom, if you can crush an atom.. what becomes of the atom.. can an atom regenerate itself? Surely not,... right??
« Last Edit: 07/01/2008 14:41:01 by Karen W. »


 

Offline Bored chemist

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How delicate is a single atom?
« Reply #1 on: 07/01/2008 18:55:21 »
In the same way that you can't cut an atom, you can't crush one. You could dstort it a bit but it will spring back. A slightly different, but easier question would be how tough are molecules? Well, the molecules in air are typically rushing round at nearly the speed of sound and when they hit eachother they just bounce.
 

Offline Karen W.

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How delicate is a single atom?
« Reply #2 on: 07/01/2008 19:00:50 »
I did not know that. I know very little about these things. Thank you.
Then I am wrong in my thinking and they are pretty resilient and tough! Thats amazing.. just goes to show my mis conception about size and strength.
 

Offline ukmicky

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How delicate is a single atom?
« Reply #3 on: 08/01/2008 22:14:14 »
I would have thought that would be dependant on what was coming its way.
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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How delicate is a single atom?
« Reply #4 on: 09/01/2008 00:20:33 »
The electrodynamic forces between atoms that hold hard substances like diamond together are far far weaker (many orders of magnitude)than the electrodynamic forces that hold whole atoms together so atoms are far stronger than the strongest materials you can think of however they can be crushed when you get the sort of temperatures and pressures you find inside a white dwarf star. This is a star that weighs about as much as the sun but is only about as big as the earth.

Atomic nuclei are even tougher (a few more orders of magnitude) but these can be crushed when you get to stars that are about the mass of the Sun and are a few miles across called neutron stars.  

If you crush such a star much smaller than that down to about a mile across it turns into a black hole.

Funnily enough small things on the earth are relatively much stronger than big things.  You may think its quite easy to squash a bug but relative to the bug's size the forces needed to squash it are much greater than the forces needed to squash you!
« Last Edit: 09/01/2008 00:23:28 by Soul Surfer »
 

Offline Bored chemist

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How delicate is a single atom?
« Reply #5 on: 09/01/2008 19:46:32 »
Ukmicky, on this scale, it doesn't matter what hits you. If you are an atom and you get hit by an elephant, it's only really the first atom of the elephant that hits you. That atom doesn't "know" it's part of an elephant.
 

lyner

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How delicate is a single atom?
« Reply #6 on: 09/01/2008 21:50:27 »
The first few layers of atoms on the surface of the element distort a bit in order to balance the force from the atom you push into it. It's a scaled up version of an elephant treading on a ball bearing - a single atom will just 'bed in' the surface.
What you need if you want to destroy or disrupt an individual atom is another particle with a lot of energy. A very fast electron or proton will do the trick - it works a bit like a bullet when it hits a large object; a lot of very local damage.
 

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How delicate is a single atom?
« Reply #6 on: 09/01/2008 21:50:27 »

 

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