For the first time in history, physicists have succeeded in interacting with the magnetic field of one atom. They used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, but on a very small scale.
The researchers used a modification of a tunnel microscope, the tip of which was formed from several iron atoms. Being magnetized, they worked like a small MRI machine, but they acted not on protons, but on target electrons - titanium atoms. By applying current pulses to the microscope needle, the scientists were able to measure the energy released by the electrons.
As a result, they not only received an "image" of the magnetic field of a single atom, but also found fundamental differences in the parameters for iron and titanium atoms, which allows them to form their signatures. And, in the future, to distinguish in this image individual atoms in the structure of an arbitrary substance. This will literally make it possible to sort any molecules into atoms, which will greatly increase the efficiency of chemical analysis. In addition, the study's authors hope that such precise control over individual atoms will help in the development of quantum systems.