IBM scientists have created a 3D map of the earth so small that 1,000 of them could fit on one grain of salt.* The scientists accomplished this through a new, breakthrough technique that uses a tiny, silicon tip with a sharp apex — 100,000 times smaller than a sharpened pencil — to create patterns and structures as small as 15 nanometers at greatly reduced cost and complexity. This patterning technique opens new prospects for developing nanosized objects in fields such as electronics, future chip technology, medicine, life sciences, and optoelectronics.
To demonstrate the technique's unique capability, the team created several 3D and 2D patterns, using different materials for each one as reported in the scientific journals Science and Advanced Materials:
A 25-nanometer-high 3D replica of the Matterhorn, a famous Alpine mountain that soars 4,478 m (14,692 ft) high, was created in molecular glass, representing a scale of 1:5 billion.
Complete 3D map of the world measuring only 22 by 11 micrometers was written on a polymer. At this size, 1,000 world maps could fit on a grain of salt. In the relief, one thousand meters of altitude correspond to roughly eight nanometers (nm). It is composed of 500,000 pixels, each measuring 20 nm2, and was created in only 2 minutes and 23 seconds.