IBM Scientists Create The Tiniest Map Of The World

IBM scientists have created a realllllly small 3D map of the world. (How small IS it?) Well, it's so small that 1,000 could fit on one grain of salt (if you take for granted that the diameter of a grain of salt is three-tenths of a millimeter).

Of course, this begs the question: how would one measure the distance between New York and Los Angeles?

Seriously, though, the technology opens the doors for all sorts of miniaturized objects with tremendous detail. One thousand meters of altitude in the real world corresponded to about eight nanometers on the teensy globe. It took 2 minutes and 23 seconds to carve out.

"Advances in nanotechnology are intimately linked to the existence of high-quality methods and tools for producing nanoscale patterns and objects on surfaces," physicist Dr. Armin Knoll of IBM Research – Zurich said in a release. "With its broad functionality and unique 3D patterning capability, this nanotip-based patterning methodology is a powerful tool for generating very small structures."

A tool with an extremely sharp tip and just 500 nanometers long is similar to those used in atomic microscopes. It can create complex structures such as a relief map of the world on a nano scale. The component mills away materia, much as a sculptor chips away everything from the hunk of marble that's not what his sculpture looks like.

A 3D replica of the Matterhorn also was created with this component, which removed 120 layers of material from a molecular glass substrate that "consists of snowflake-like molecules." The world map was created using a different polymer, called "polyphthalaldehyde," developed by IBM Fellow Hiroshi Ito in the 1980s. That is molded by using extreme heat to "unzip" pieces from it.

IBM said the techniques used in the experiments have implications in "electronics, future chip technology, medicine, life sciences and optoelectronics."

IBM did not, however, give the distance in nanometers between Los Angeles and New York City.

Tags:  IBM, nanotechnology