19 April 2011

The 3D Nanoscanner

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The flat surface of a silicon wafer is not smooth at all. Scientists of the EU research project Pronano have built a new tool that allows them to visualise the nano-scale of it. And now the smooth surface looks like a mountain range! (Apr '11)

Researchers from the Institute of Micro- and Nanotechnologies in Ilmenau, Germany have developed the new scanning device with a set of highly sensitive needles or cantilevers, each of which is only a few microns wide. The Pronano project lets several of these operate simultaneously, whereas the scanners currently on the market are very slow because they use only a single needle. Up to 128 micro sized silicon needles pass over surfaces of wafers or polymer lenses. The vibrations of these needles are transformed into electrical signals and then transformed into a 3D image.

Scientists are working to develop new perspectives for applications, for example in the optical industry. Micro-lenses made of polymer can be analyzed ten times faster, revealing irregularities like metallic nanoparticles that are poorly embedded in the polymer surface and appear as spots on the computer screen.

Beyond surface analysis, the technology can also be used for writing nanoscale patterns with the same silicon needles. A lithography system that can engrave components of 2 or 3 nanometres, further revolutionizing computer technology.With the new 3D nanoscanner it will be possible to engrave nano sized structures onto surfaces.

Detect tiny faults on the components of electronic devices more quickly as well as improve the accuracy of their engraving are two of Pronano's goals. So that in the future, electronic devices like computers and cell phones can be even more efficient and less costly, despite their delicate technology.

 

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