From Technology Review: IBM researchers have invented a low-cost and relatively simple fabrication tool capable of reliably creating features as small as 15 nanometers. To show off the tool, the researchers at IBM’s Zurich lab made a three-dimensional map of the Earth so small that 1,000 of them would fit onto a single grain of salt.
Existing nano-fabrication techniques like electron beam lithography have difficulty making features much smaller than 30 nanometers and are expensive and complex instruments. In contrast, the IBM researchers say their new fabrication tool sits on a tabletop at one-fifth to one-tenth the cost.
The new instrument is a descendant of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) invented by IBM Zurich scientists in the early 1980s. That microscope made it possible, for the first time, to image and manipulate atoms. The new instrument uses an extremely small silicon tip that is rapidly scanned across the surface of the substrate. The tip is cantilevered like those used in atomic force microscopy (or AFM: an offshoot of STM that was invented in 1986), enabling it to apply nanonewtons of force to the surface. But unlike AFM, the tip is heated.
Where it touches the substrate, the thermal energy at the tip is sufficient to break weak bonds within the material.
I will be traveling the next couple of days. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to post again. But speaking of travel, here are some mini-landscapes for your viewing pleasure (courtesy of Wired):
Matthew Albanese saw his destiny when he knocked a tub of spices onto the floor.
“I knocked over a tub of paprika and I was kind of interested in the texture and the color and the smell and everything,” said Albanese. “It just made sense for me to use that, to start there.”
Working in his self-built studio tucked into the back of his father’s New Jersey warehouse, Albanese employed his art-school education to shape a meticulously detailed relief of the Martian surface.
Scale models have been used in movies and television for decades, but not often ones constructed from found materials. Albanese’s results rival those of professional special effects studios, all performed without a team of artisans or expensive equipment.
From childhood fascinations to a promising art career, Albanese is gaining attention for his realistic photographs of imagined places. DIY techniques and dedication are luring both online eyes and art collectors; his series has been featured in newspapers from China to Brazil and made a splash on the Sundance website. Read on for a peek into his Strange Worlds series.
Supposedly this is the world’s smallest teddy bear, but I bet some nanolithographer has made a smaller one.
Some of us just can’t get to sleep at night without our teddy bear by our side, so German artist Bettina Kaminski created “Mini the Pooh”. At just 5 mm tall, it is the world’s smallest Teddy Bear! Very very cute but you couldn’t really snuggle up to it at night.
The snowman is 10 µm across, 1/5th the width of a human hair.
The snowman was made from two tin beads used to calibrate electron microscope astigmatism. The eyes and smile were milled using a focused ion beam, and the nose, which is under 1 µm wide (or 0.001 mm), is ion beam deposited platinum.
A nanomanipulation system was used to assemble the parts ‘by hand’ and platinum deposition was used to weld all elements together. The snowman is mounted on a silicon cantilever from an atomic force microscope whose sharp tip ‘feels’ surfaces creating topographic surveys at almost atomic scales.
Nowhere is the power of photomicrography better documented than in Nikon’s Small World photomicrography competition, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. In photographs dating back to 1977, crystals, neurons, larvae, knitting needles, fabrics, and hundreds of other organisms and objects reveal scientific information and artistic beauty. This week, Nikon announced its top 20 winners for 2009, the best of almost 3,000 entries from around the world.
In the 35 years since the contest began, technology has dramatically advanced the field of microscopic imaging. Early on, photomicrography faced the challenge that came with old-fashioned film: researchers couldn’t see what they were capturing in real time, so they had to take multiple images to get one that was well lighted, well focused, and well framed. “It was always potluck to see what you would get at the end,” says Alan Opsahl, a senior scientist in the Investigative Pathology Group at Pfizer. “You wasted a lot of film, time, and energy to get that perfect image.” Today digital photography allows scientists to see their pictures as they take them and provides far more flexibility as they prepare their final images on a computer. Researchers can, for example, adjust colors to produce the most effective result. Opsahl did this with an image of mouse brain cells, which he submitted to Nikon’s contest this year. In the original digital image, the biological stains he used labeled the nuclei of the cells blue and the cell bodies and processes brown. But Opsahl liked it the other way around, because it allowed the delicate neurons to stand out better. “I flip-flopped the colors, much like you do with a negative,” he says. Nikon’s rules state that photos must be taken with a light microscope—as opposed to an electron microscope, which can achieve even higher levels of magnification—but there are no restrictions on how color is used.
This is NOT a slow news day; this is me being super swamped at work and not having time to read any news.
As a small token of appreciation for your patience, please enjoy this interview with microsculptor Willard Wigan on NPR. He is definitely dedicated to his art, even if there is the threat of accidentally breathing it in.
Wigan “makes sculptures so small, that they’re barely visible to the naked eye. His art has to be viewed through a microscope – that’s why he calls himself a micro-sculptor. Willard Wigan has put Elvis Presley on the head of a pin. He’s perched Marilyn Monroe on top of a diamond. And this year he squeezed the Obama family into the eye of a sewing needle.”
My favorite part of the story is actually what inspired his micro-career: building little apartments for lost ants. Awwww…and how awesome that a love of nature inspired such (micro) art.
Willard was asked to appear as a guest speaker at the July 2009 world conference Technology, Entertainment, Design institute, (www.ted.com).