PHYSICISTS have seen the precise locations of over 23,000 atoms in a minuscule particle for the first time, it has been revealed.

For the first time in history, scientists have seen the exact coordinates of 6,569 iron and 16,627 platinum atoms in a nanoparticle small enough to fit inside a single cell wall.

A group of US experts used a scanning electron microscope to get up close and personal with a particle made up of iron (Fe) and platinum (Pt) that was just 8.4 nanometers wide, with a nano metre being a billionth of a metre.

Explaining why this is significant, Michael Farle, a physicist at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, wrote in an accompanying News and Views article in Nature: “At the nanoscale, every atom counts.

“For example, changing the relative positions of a few Fe and Pt atoms in a FePt nanoparticle dramatically alters the particle’s properties, such as its response to a magnetic field.”

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