Tag: ‘Miniaturization’

‘Atomic pen’ writes with individual atoms

17 Oct 2008

Atom pen --
An Osaka University research team has demonstrated an "atomic pen" that can inscribe nano-sized text on metal by manipulating individual atoms on the surface.

According to the researchers, whose results appear in the October 17 edition of Science magazine, the atomic pen is built on a previous discovery that silicon atoms at the tip of an atomic force microscope probe will interchange with the tin atoms in the surface of a semiconductor sample when in close proximity. Using this atom-interchange phenomenon, the researchers were able to arrange individual silicon atoms one by one on a semiconductor surface to spell out the letters "Si." The writing process, which took about an hour and a half to complete, was conducted at room temperature.

The completed text measures 2 x 2 nanometers, which is roughly 40,000 times smaller than the width of the average human hair.

"It's not possible to write any smaller than this," said Masayuki Abe, a researcher involved in the project.

The ability to incorporate individual atoms into a surface could lead to a variety of advances in atomic scale technology, the researchers suggest. If used in chip manufacturing, for example, this technology could help build powerful computers the size of a wristwatch.

[Source: Asahi]

World’s smallest bowl of ramen

29 May 2008

Nano-ramen --

It won't fill you up, but it is a feast for the eyes (if you look through a microscope). This so-called "world's smallest bowl of ramen" -- a 1-micron (1/1000-mm, or 1/100th the width of a human hair) wide bowl containing dozens of 20-nanometer (1/50,000-mm) thick noodles -- was created by University of Tokyo professor Masayuki Nakao as part of an effort to develop new carbon nanotube-based microcircuit fabrication technology. Nakao used a metal particle beam to carve the bowl from silicon, and he mixed up a soup of ethanol and catalyst inside the bowl to form the carbon nanotube "noodles." According to Nakao, it was a major challenge to keep the bowl from overflowing. No word yet on how the tiny meal tastes.

[Source: Yomiuri]

RIKEN creates insulated nanowires

08 Jan 2008

Insulated nanowire -- In a development that brings superdense memory devices and molecule-sized machines a step closer to reality, scientists at Japan's Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) have succeeded in creating 1-nanometer-thick electric wires with a layer of insulation. According to a January 2 RIKEN press release, the researchers grew the insulated nanowire crystals through a process involving a mixture of conductive and non-conductive organic molecules that organized themselves into the desired configuration.

For perspective, 10 hydrogen atoms laid side by side measure about 1 nanometer across, and a human hair is around 70,000 to 80,000 nanometers thick.

While scientists in the past have succeeded in creating nanowires from carbon nanotubes, metals and other materials, a great challenge has been to provide insulation to these microscopic wires so that they can be put to use in integrated circuits without short-circuiting. Another challenge has been to develop technology that enables nanowires to be arranged into regular arrays.

RIKEN researchers have overcome these challenges by developing a nanowire growth process that uses a tetrathiafulvalene (TTF) derivative -- an organic molecule that conducts electricity -- and non-conductive iodine-containing neutral molecules (HFTIEB), which together self-assemble into crystals that function as insulated nanowires. The researchers, who indicated success in organizing the nanowires into regular patterns, also demonstrated a certain degree of control over the crystal structure, creating two-conductor nanowires and insulation coatings of various thicknesses. The results suggest it may soon be possible to engineer these insulated nanowires for use in practical applications.

RIKEN's insulated nanowires have the potential to be used as a basic component in superdense 3D storage media that rely on molecular memory arrays, say the researchers, who indicate that memory devices built on this technology would be able to store up to 100 petabytes (100 million gigabytes) of data per cubic centimeter, or about 400,000 times more than today's typical desktop PC hard drive (250 GB) in a device the size of a sugar cube. If used in logic circuits, this type of wiring technology would revolutionize the electronics industry as we know it, the researchers add.

[Source: RIKEN]

Teleglass T4-N wearable monitor

05 Oct 2007

Teleglass T4N wearable monitor --

Optical device maker Scalar has added a limited-edition model to its line of video glasses. The Teleglass T4-N wearable monitor, which weighs 30 grams and features titanium frames by eyeglass designer Kazuo Kawasaki, was developed in cooperation with long-established manufacturer Masunaga Optical.

Teleglass T4-N connects to any NTSC-capable video player (including iPods) and delivers images directly to the eye via a pair of tiny monitors tucked away behind the lenses. The 640 x 480 screen resolution at close proximity simulates the effect of watching a 45-inch screen from 2 meters (6 feet) away, and each monitor can be focused and adjusted for an optimal picture that reduces eye strain. Audio is delivered through a pair of frame-mounted earphones.

With all the components hidden behind the lenses and crammed into the nosepiece, the lightweight Teleglass T4-N wearable monitor looks like a pair of stylish sunglasses. The monitors do not completely obstruct the view, allowing users to safely and comfortably enjoy audio-video entertainment during the course of everyday activities.

For now, 500 sets are available through the Scalar website, where they sell for 134,400 yen ($1,150) each.

[Link: Teleglass via Gigazine]

Ferritin proteins yield ultrathin computer memory

28 Sep 2007

Ferritin and Detective Conan --

Researchers from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology have developed a biotech-based process for creating ultrathin computer memory. The process, which uses a protein commonly found in mammals, allows memory to be built on thinner substrates because it eliminates the need for high-temperature processing, and it could lead to significantly smaller and thinner computers in the near future, suggest the researchers.

Computer memory typically consists of millions of circuit elements, known as memory cells, which are made of metal and arranged on a silicon substrate. Because the manufacturing process involves temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit), the substrate must have a high heat resistance, making thin materials with low heat resistance, such as glass and plastics, unsuitable. However, by using ferritin -- a globular protein complex that stores iron inside its hollow spherical structure, and which is commonly found in the bodies of mammals -- the research group developed a way to arrange metal memory cells on substrates without heat, allowing for the use of thinner substrate materials.

In this new method, ferritin containing metal molecules is applied to a substrate and allowed to self-assemble into a high-density, ordered arrangement. The ferritin is then irradiated with UV light, which completely destroys the protein and leaves behind tiny metal deposits on the substrate. In this way, the researchers bypassed the need for high-temperature processing, allowing for the creation of ultrathin memory chips that measure less than 1 micron in thickness.

The researchers, who happen to be fans of the popular Detective Conan (a.k.a. "Case Closed") series of manga and anime, say their success marks a major step forward in the development of ultrathin computers that, if coupled with ultrathin displays, could one day be used in devices like the high-tech eyeglasses that appear in Detective Conan. The Detective Conan series, which is authored by Gosho Aoyama, centers around Shin'ichi Kudo ("Jimmy Kudo" in the US version), a young detective that has been transformed into a prepubescent boy who goes by the alias of Edogawa Conan and who is armed with an array of high-tech gadgets like computerized eyeglasses, a voice-changing bow tie, and power-boost sneakers.

Research team leader and electronics engineering professor Yukiharu Uraoka says, "We are well on the way to developing computers built on thin films that can be integrated into eyeglass lenses or into clothing. Conan's eyeglasses are no longer a dream."

In response to the development, Gosho Aoyama, Conan's creator, says, "It is a great thrill to see an idea on the pages of a manga become a reality. Next, if possible, I'd like someone to develop power-boost sneakers."

[Source: Yomiuri]

“World’s smallest” gas turbine engine

09 Aug 2007

World's smallest gas turbine engine --

Researchers at Tohoku University have developed a working prototype of what they are calling the world's smallest gas turbine engine, a palm-sized motor they hope will one day be used to power autonomous robots and serve as a portable engine for personal transportation devices.

The research team led by professor Shuji Tanaka from Tohoku University's Nano-Precision Mechanical Fabrication Lab worked with researchers from IHI Corporation and the University of Tokyo to create the tiny engine, which measures 10 cm (4 in.) in diameter and 15 cm (6 in.) in length. With a 16 mm (0.63 in.) compressor rotor diameter and a 17 mm (0.67 in.) turbine rotor diameter and combustion chamber, the engine boasts a rotational speed of 500,000 to 600,000 rpm, which is made possible by special air bearings the researchers developed.

Unlike battery-powered engines that need to stop for periodic recharging, gas turbine engines can run continuously as long as fuel is supplied. Furthermore, gas turbine engines feature a higher power density than fuel cell and battery-powered engines, and they run cleaner than reciprocating piston engines.

With demand expected to increase for robots that use commonly available fuels and compact motors for personal transportation for the elderly, the Tohoku University researchers have been working with IHI since 2000 to develop a portable, lightweight and quiet engine able to operate for long periods of time between refuelings. After 7 years of work, they have broken the 20 mm diameter rotor barrier, a goal long shared by their microturbine-minded peers around the globe.

The engine has not yet been outfitted with a generator because it is still under development, but space has been set aside for it within the engine.

The engine will be officially unveiled at PowerMEMS 2007 scheduled for November 28-29 in Freiberg, Germany.

[Source: Nikkei Net]

Tiny robot reduces need for surgery

26 Feb 2007

Surgical microbot ---

On February 26, researchers from Ritsumeikan University and the Shiga University of Medical Science completed work on a miniature robot prototype that, once inserted into the body through an incision, can be freely controlled to perform medical treatment and capture images of affected areas. The plastic-encased minibot, which measures 2 cm (0.8 inch) in length and 1 cm (0.4 inch) in diameter, can be maneuvered through the body by controlling an external magnetic field applied near the patient.

While other types of miniature swallowable robots have been developed in the past, their role has mostly been limited to capturing images inside the body. According to Ritsumeikan University professor Masaaki Makikawa, this new prototype robot has the ability to perform treatment inside the body, eliminating the need for surgery in some cases.

The researchers developed five different kinds of prototypes with features such as image capture functions, medicine delivery systems, and tiny forceps for taking tissue samples. MRI images of the patient taken in advance serve as a map for navigating the minibot, which is said to have performed swimmingly in tests on animals. Sensor and image data is relayed back to a computer via an attached 2-mm diameter cable, which looks like it can also serve as a safety line in case the minibot gets lost or stranded.

[Source: Chugoku Shimbun]

Hitachi develops RFID powder

14 Feb 2007

RFID keeps getting smaller. On February 13, Hitachi unveiled a tiny, new "powder" type RFID chip measuring 0.05 x 0.05 mm -- the smallest yet -- which they aim to begin marketing in 2 to 3 years.

Hitachi develops super-tiny RFID chips ---
Hitachi's new RFID chips (left, next to a human hair) are 64x smaller than their mu-chips (right)

By relying on semiconductor miniaturization technology and using electron beams to write data on the chip substrates, Hitachi was able to create RFID chips 64 times smaller than their currently available 0.4 x 0.4 mm mu-chips. Like mu-chips, which have been used as an anti-counterfeit measure in admission tickets, the new chips have a 128-bit ROM for storing a unique 38-digit ID number.

The new chips are also 9 times smaller than the prototype chips Hitachi unveiled last year, which measure 0.15 x 0.15 mm.

At 5 microns thick, the RFID chips can more easily be embedded in sheets of paper, meaning they can be used in paper currency, gift certificates and identification. But since existing tags are already small enough to embed in paper, it leads one to wonder what new applications the developers have in mind.

[Source: Fuji Sankei]

Nanotext: Holographic print gets 30 times finer

02 Feb 2007

Nanotext --- On February 1, Toppan Printing unveiled new nanotext printing technology for inserting microscopic text into holographic images. The company says they plan to use nanotext to provide an extra layer of security to their "Crystagram" holographic anti-counterfeit technology. Test production is set to begin later this month.

Toppan's holographic nanotext printing uses electron beams (EB) to print characters 30 times smaller than possible with existing "microtext" technology. With a resolution of about 100 nanometers, it is now possible to print more than 20 holographic characters in a space the width of a human hair (about 80 microns).

Holograms have long been used as an effective method for preventing the counterfeit of items ranging from gift certificates to credit cards to luxury brand products, but organizations find themselves locked into a race with counterfeiters that are quick to adopt new technologies. Nanotext, Toppan argues, provides the next hurdle for counterfeiters to overcome.

Toppan is now working on the technology necessary for mass production, and full market release is scheduled for autumn 2007. The company is aiming for first-year sales of 300 million yen ($2.5 million).

[Source: Toppan press release]