Raise your nano-glasses

A joint research effort involving the NEC Corporation, Seiko Instruments and the Himeji Institute of Technology has resulted in the creation of the world’s smallest wineglass.

Using manufacturing techniques that can produce three dimensional objects at the nanometer scale, Professor Matsui of the Himeji Institute of Technology and a team of researchers built the glass from carbon with an external diameter of only 2,750 nanometers, approximately 200,000 times smaller than a normal sized glass.

This 3D manufacturing technique is said to resolve the problem facing semiconductor and other advanced electronic component manufacturers about how to realise future generation products.

As products progress from the micron scale to the nanometer scale, it becomes much more problematic to build highly detailed structures.

The success of this new experimental technique, however, is believed to open the way to production of ultra-miniature devices such as biosensors, high-performance optical communications devices, and control switches.

Currently, building such a small structure requires the type of two-dimensional processes now used to manufacture semiconductors.

But this process encounters several problems. Firstly, the lasers used by the optical formation method cannot focus very well beyond the micron-level of detail. Secondly, the materials used in these contemporary-manufacturing techniques have limited capabilities and, lastly, the machinery used is limited in the accuracy it can achieve at such small scales.

The technique used to construct the wine glass is based on the use of a gallium-focused ion beam, with a diameter of 10nm, and a computer controlled electro-magnetic deflection system that is able to build the target object in real-time at nanometer scale in a gas which contains the base material.

The combination of the focused gallium ion beam, construction from the base material in gas form, and control based on 3D computer-aided design is said to enable accuracy below 100nm.

The three companies are now developing the technique to introduce it into manufacturing at the earliest opportunity, and plan to increase related research and development efforts.

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