The world's smallest wineglass

Tokyo 07 December 2000 Professor Shinji Matsui's research group at the Himeji Institute of Technology (HIT) and Seiko Instruments Inc. (SII), have made the world's smallest wine glass. Using highly advanced manufacturing techniques that can produce three dimensional (3D) objects at the nanometer scale (one nanometer is one-billionth of a meter), researchers built the glass from carbon with an external diameter of only 2,750 nanometers (nm), approximately 20,000 times smaller than a normal sized glass. Whether they did use it for sake to celebrate their success is not known.

This 3D manufacturing technique resolves the considerable problem facing semiconductor and other highly advanced electronic component manufacturers about how to realize future generation products. As products progress from the micron scale (one micron is one-millionth of a meter) to the nanometer scale, it becomes much more problematic to build highly detailed structures.

The success of this new experimental technique, however, opens the way to production of ultra-miniature devices such as biosensors, high-performance optical communications devices, and control switches. The technology also brings considerable promise to the fields of nano-electromechanics (NEMS), nano-optics, nano-magnetic devices, bio-nanochips and sensors.

Currently, building such a small structure would require the type of two dimensional (2D) processes now used to manufacture semiconductors. But this 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. When using contemporary 2D semiconductor process techniques to build 3D structures, they are inefficient and unnecessarily complicated.

The newly developed technique that the three companies 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 are able to build the target object in real-time at the 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 (CAD) enables accuracy below 100nm.


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