IBM has demonstrated a 3D micro-etching device that it claims will dramatically lower the cost and complexity of building nanoscale objects.The technique uses a carbon nanotip a few nanometres (nm) wide, heated to 330 degrees centigrade and then manipulated to etch 3D models on a variety of materials.The team used the device to build a 1:1.5 billion scale model of the Matterhorn and a 3D relief map of the world so small that 1,000 could be printed on a grain of salt."Advances in nanotechnology are intimately linked to the existence of high-quality methods and tools for producing nanoscale patterns and objects on surfaces," said Dr Armin Knoll of IBM Research in Zurich."With its broad functionality and unique 3D patterning capability, this nanotip-based patterning methodology is a powerful tool for generating very small structures."The new technique can be used to build 3D structures of around 15nm in size, which could greatly speed up the fabrication of new chip designs or to build components for nanoscale devices.The method is also much faster than existing etching systems, taking under two and a half minutes to complete the 3D map.To demonstrate the 2D capabilities of the tabletop device, the team etched an IBM logo 400nm deep in substrate to within an accuracy of 1nm. This would be important for laying down chip designs for manufacture.
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