Physicists at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) are making Christmas merry using a 3D nanolithography tool. Nanofrasor breaking the smallest record. The tune they “recorded,” in full stereo, no less: the first 25 seconds of “Swinging Around the Christmas Tree.”
“I’ve been doing lithography for 30 years, and even though we’ve had this machine for a while, it still feels like science fiction.” said Peter Bøggild, physicist at DTU. “To get an idea of the scale we’re working with, we can write our own signatures on a red blood cell with this thing. What’s more radical is that we can create freeform 3D landscapes with this crazy resolution.”
Back In 2015the same DTU group created a microscopic color image of Mona Lisa, about 10,000 times smaller than Leonardo da Vinci’s original painting. To do this, they created a nanoscale surface structure consisting of rows of columns covered with a 20 nm thick layer of aluminum. How much the column was deformed was determined by which colors of light were reflected, and the deformation, in turn, was determined by the intensity of the pulsed laser beam. For example, low-intensity pulses deform the columns only slightly, creating blue and violet tones, while strong pulses significantly deform the columns, creating orange and yellow tones. The resulting image fits into a smaller space than a single pixel on the iPhone Retina display.
A DTU physics group has acquired a Nanofrasor to quickly and relatively inexpensively sculpt highly detailed 3D nanostructures. The Christmas record was simply a fun holiday project for postdoc Nolan Lassaline to demonstrate his ability to shape a surface with nanoscale precision. Instead of adding material to a surface, the Nanofrazor precisely removes material to sculpt the surface into a desired pattern or shape—a kind of grayscale nanolithography.
“The nanofrasor was activated like a record-breaking lathe – turning the sound signal into a spiral groove on the surface of the medium.” Bøggild said, who is also an avid musician and vinyl enthusiast. “In this case, the medium is a different polymer than vinyl. We’ve even encoded the music in stereo—the sidebands are the left channel, and the depth modulation contains the right channel. Getting a hit can be very practical and expensive. Remember. An atomic force microscope expensive enough to read the groove or Nanofrazor is needed, but it’s definitely possible.”
The initial goal is to use the Nanofrasor to develop new types of magnetic sensors that can detect currents in living brains. Lassaline plans to create a “quantum soap bubble” in graphene, hoping to discover new ways to precisely manipulate electrons in this and other atomically thin materials. “Now being able to precisely shape surfaces with nanoscale precision at the speed of imagination is a game changer for us” DTU physicist Tim Booth said. “We have many ideas for what to do next, and we believe this machine will significantly accelerate the prototyping of new structures.”
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