How will they create the world's smallest magazine cover?
The SwissLitho NanoFrazor ProbeIBM scientists have invented a tiny chisel with a nano-size tip 100,000 times smaller than a sharpened pencil point. Using this tip the scientists will etch the magazine cover onto sliver of polymer (plastic) called polyphthalaldehyde. If they are successful, the cover will be so small that 2,000 of them could fit on a grain of salt.
The tip, similar to the kind used in atomic force microscopes, is attached to a bendable cantilever that controllably scans the surface of the substrate material with the accuracy of one nanometer—a millionth of a millimeter. By applying heat and force, the nano-sized tip can remove substrate material based on predefined patterns, thus operating like a “nanomilling” machine or 3D printer with ultra-high precision.
Similar to using 3D printer, more material can be removed to create complex 3D structures with nanometer precision by modulating the force or by readdressing individual spots.
Sound familiar? It should, IBM scientists announced this breakthrough innovation in 2010 in a series of papers published in the journals Science and Advanced Materials where they demonstrated the technique to create a map of the world. Check out the video below to see how they did it:
This new capability may impact the prototyping of new transistor devices, including tunneling field effect transistors, for more energy efficient and faster electronics for anything from cloud data center to smartphones.
IBM scientists envision other applications as well in the emerging field of quantum systems. One way to address and connect such quantum systems is via electromagnetic radiation or light. The new technique may be used to create high quality patterns to control and manipulate light for this purpose at unprecedented precision.
The technology has been licensed by IBM to the Swiss start-up SwissLitho who brought the desktop-sized tool to market under the name NanoFrazor.
Click and Vote
Voting is now open. Check back on the NG KIDS website on April 11 to find out which cover will be turned into the world's smallest magazine cover.
After it's miniaturized, the tiny cover will be unveiled on April 25 at the 2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington DC. If you plan to attend the event stop by the IBM and National Geographic Kids booth to meet the scientist who created the cover and to see it for yourself.