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Here's how the images came to life...

  1. A tip is scanned over a surface at a distance of a few atomic diameters in a point-by-point and line-by-line fashion. At each point the tunneling current between the tip and the surface is measured. The tunneling current decreases exponentially with increasing distance and thus, through the use of a feedback loop, the vertical position of the tip can be adjusted to a constant distance from the surface.
  2. The amount of these adjustments is recorded and defines a grid of values which can be displayed as a grayscale image.
  3. Instead of assigning the values to a color we can also use them to deform the grid in the direction perpendicular to the surface.
  4. Now we can bring back the grayscale and paint each square according to an average of the four defining grid points.

STM How-to Pictures 1-4

  1. Now we paint the whole surface uniformly gray and switch on the lights.
  2. We can use several lights at different positions and with different colors.
  3. Instead of painting the surface just gray we can use a color palette and paint it according to height.
  4. Or we choose the color according to another surface property, let's say curvature.

STM How-to Pictures 5-8

And for those who heed the call of the machine...

The images in this gallery were created on an IBM RISC System/6000 workstation (Model 390) equipped with one of IBM's cool GXT1000 graphics accelerators.

The software was custom built by His Wizardship William E. Rudge IV. It uses the GL graphics library and is designed for maximum interactive control of all degrees of freedom (position, scaling, lights, material, etc.) through the use of dial and button boxes.