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IBM Hardware

IBM Creates World's Smallest 3-D Map 90

schliz writes "IBM scientists have created the smallest 3-D map of the earth, so small that 1,000 maps could fit on a grain of salt (YouTube video from IBM). The 500K-pixel map was created in 2 minutes 23 seconds. Using a tiny, heated silicon tip, the technique reached a resolution of 15nm — comparable to the 10nm achievable by the more complex electron beam lithography. The researchers believe that smaller resolutions are feasible. Potential applications range from fast prototyping for CMOS nanoelectronics to fabricating shape-matching templates for self-assembling nano-rods or nano-tubes, IBM says. The researchers also produced a billion-to-one scale model of the Matterhorn." This is very much a laboratory technique at the moment, at least five years from commercial use.
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IBM Creates World's Smallest 3-D Map

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  • Resolution? (Score:2, Informative)

    by jpyeck ( 1368075 ) on Friday April 23, 2010 @09:42AM (#31954482)
    To what scale is this a "map of the Earth"? At some point this will become so small a 3D map of the Earth is going to be indistinguishable from a sphere.
  • Re:Resolution? (Score:4, Informative)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday April 23, 2010 @11:04AM (#31955626)
    Welcome to the Internet, where you can take a look [] and see for yourself with just a single click.
  • by Bob-taro ( 996889 ) on Friday April 23, 2010 @12:02PM (#31956504)

    I have a problem with the resolution ... Calling it a map is a stretch. Calling it a 3D map is not legitimate as there is no usable 3D Information based solely on resolution.

    Technically, it's a map no matter how little information is there. But aside from that, your math is off. It's one pixel for 1000km^2, not (1000km)^2. Each pixel represents a square with 32km sides.

  • Re:what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by JustinOpinion ( 1246824 ) on Friday April 23, 2010 @02:30PM (#31958556)
    It is 3D in the sense that it is a 2D image with topography (a height map). Basically they are using a very sharp (nano-sized) heated stylus to desorb ("burn") away nano-sized amounts of polymer. (This is basically a variant of "scanning probe" methods like atomic force microscopy [].) By carefully positioning the probe in x-y you can draw a pattern, and by controlling the stylus height and burn time, you can control the depth. In this way you can create arbitrary topography at the nano-scale.

    Many of the comments in this thread seem to be fixating on the uselessness of such a small map of the world. Making a world map was just a cute proof of principle (the paper also shows test patterns so that you can judge patterning fidelity). Basically this is a new way to pattern at the nanoscale in an fairly arbitrary way. Of course raster scanning a stylus is going to be very slow compared to optical lithography, but at this stage it's better to compare to something like e-beam lithography [] which is the raster-scanning of an electron beam. This is also slow, but can make very high-resolution patterns and is thus great for exploratory research and for creating the masters that are then used for optical lithography. This new nano-desorbing technique could be another way to make master patterns. In fact, the papers mention that the resolution and throughput are in fact comparable to e-beam methods. And this new technique has a couple of advantages:
    1. The ability to not just pattern in 2D, but control the topography could reduce the number of patterning steps in microchip construction.
    2. These mechanical 'scanning tips' can in principle be built into massive arrays, allowing parallel (high-throughput) patterning. In fact IBM has been working on a project called millipede [] for using these arrays of tips as a data storage device. (This most recent patterning work appears to be an offshoot, where instead of melting pits to store data, they are blasting away material to pattern.)

    It's always difficult to predict whether these things will become real products one day, but the proof-of-principle for both tip arrays, and now for nano-scale patterning using heated tips, means that we're actually relatively close. If IBM pursues this, it could become a new nano-patterning method in the toolbox of the microelectronics industry (which is, of course, always looking for techniques that can push patterning to ever smaller scales).

    For anyone interested (and with subscription access), here are the papers:
    "Nanoscale 3D Patterning of Molecular Resists by Scanning Probes []" by D. Pires, J. L. Hedrick, A. De Silva, J. Frommer, B. Gotsmann, H. Wolf, M. Despont, U. Duerig and A. W. Knoll was published by Science on the Science Express website on April 22, 2010, DOI: 10.1126/science.1187851 []
    "Probe-based 3-D Nanolithography Using Self-Amplified Depolymerization Polymers []" by A. Knoll, D. Pires, O. Coulembier, P. Dubois, J. L. Hedrick, J. Frommer and U. Duerig was published in Advanced Materials, advanced online publication on April 23, 2010, DOI: 10.1002/adma.200904386 []

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