A Birmingham professor is playing a leading role in creating the new "seven wonders of the world" in the field of nano technology.
Prof Richard Palmer has already created a "nano man" and a "nano lighthouse" out of individual atoms 10,000 times smaller than the width of a single human hair.
Now his groundbreaking work at Birmingham University's Nanoscale Physics Research Laboratory has been boosted with the opening of a new £2.5 million unit to look at the greater manipulation of atoms.
Among other things it will enable his team of scientists to create "designer material" by reconfiguring atoms into substances previously unknown to man.
Prof Palmer said: "If you look at the seven wonders of the ancient world, all of them were gigantic. We are creating similarly impressive architecture on the scale of individual atoms."
The nano man was made from individual carbon atoms using a focused electronic beam while the lighthouse was a pillar structure made from silicon atoms customised to emit light.
The new unit, called The Nanoscale Science Facility, will enhance the existing centre research through the addition of a new electron microscope which allows scientists to look into objects. "With this new tool we can see down to the individual atoms - the microscope allows you to see below the surface," said Prof Palmer.
Also new to the centre is a tool similar to an ultra-sharp needle used to manipulate single atoms in material into new structures.
"It is a bit like a microscopic snooker cue - we play snooker with atoms," added Prof Palmer.
"If you can make artificial structures you can study how they behave. It is like customising materials, creating designer materials. Ultimately we would hope to harness these new opportunities."
Scientists can often predict how atom manipulation will affect substance behaviour, but the results can also be totally unexpected. "In some cases we are experiencing unknown territory," said Prof Palmer.
The professor refused to speculate on some of the more fantastic applications of the new science. However, some scientists claim molecular manipulation holds the key to dramatic medical advances and even space travel.
Prof Palmer maintains Birmingham's strength in the sector offers a unique opportunity to firms in the West Midlands to get a head start in the high-tech world.
"We see this as another step forward in the whole nano technology activity in Birmingham and the contribution we can make to regional innovation through the Central Technology Belt," he said.
"We are keen to offer our facilities and expertise to companies that want to exploit the new science to manage high-technology products and processes.
"By controlling materials on a nanometre scale we can have control over their performance."
He claimed exciting opportunities existed within the chemical coatings industry from traditional manufacturing firms through to companies making artificial hip joints.
The NSF represents the next phase in the development of Birmingham University's nanoscale laboratory, which opened ten years ago.
Since launch it has been at the cutting edge of the emerging field of nanoscale science, an area which the Government is keen to see British industry exploit.
Scientists in the field measure in nanometres, with one nanometre being 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.