IBM Research has demonstrated a 3-D technique for patterning at the atomic scale that it says outperforms e-beam lithography in speed and resolution, at lower cost. Look for ultra-small prototypes to switch to the IBM method over the next few years. R.C.J.
IBM Research has demonstrated its new 3-D technique by fabricating a 22 x 11-micron map of Earth and a 25-micron-high 3-D rendering of the 14,692-foot-tall Matterhorn. The tiny images, representing a scale of 5 billion to 1, were created in less than 3 minutes with a silicon tip similar those used in atomic-force microscopes, but measuring just 500 nanometers in length and only a few nanometers wide at its apex. The tip was attached to a flexible cantilever that IBM says can scan the surface of any substrate with 1-nm accuracy. The company plans to use the patterning technique for prototyping nanoscale CMOS electronics, optical components and meta-materials and for making shape-matching templates that direct the self-assembly of nanorods or nanotubes.
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