IBM Creates World’s Smallest 3D Map

By on 13 May, 2010

IBM scientists have created the smallest 3D map of the Earth. How small is it? So small that 1,000 such maps could fit on a grain of salt.


The scientists used a new technique involving a tiny silicon tip with a sharp apex – one million times smaller than an ant – to create tiny patterns and structures, and at greatly reduced cost and complexity.


Along with creating a way to make headlines, and really small maps, the project’s technology could lead to improvements in the development of nanoscale structures and devices. For example, it could be applied in future chip technology, medicine and opto-electronics.


The IBM team created several 3D and 2D patterns to demonstrate the groundbreaking techniques and capabilities of the project. These include a 25-nanometer-high 3D replica of Switzerland’s Matterhorn, made out of molecular glass, representing a scale of 1:5 billion.


Another example, a 2D nano-sized IBM logo, was etched 400-nm-deep into silicon, demonstrating the viability of the technique for typical nanofabrication applications.


"Advances in nanotechnology are intimately linked to the existence of high quality methods and tools for producing nanoscale patterns and objects on surfaces," said physicist Armin Knoll of IBM Research in Zurich.


The new technique achieves resolutions as high as 15 nanometers, and has a potential of going even smaller. The nanotip tool, which can sit on a tabletop, promises improved and extended capabilities at very high resolutions, but at one fifth to one tenth of the cost.

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