Physicists at Denmark’s Technical University (DTU) are using the Holiday spirit to create the smallest record ever. The song they “recorded” in full audio is “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” for the first 25 seconds.
DTU researchers created the smallest record ever cut, measuring only 40 micrometers in diameter, using a new nano-sculpting machine called the Nanofrazor, which is capable of engraving patterns into surfaces at resolutions much smaller than anything previously seen.
“I have done lithography for 30 years, and although we’ve had this machine for a while, it still feels like science fiction. We’ve done many experiments, like making a copy of the Mona Lisa in a 12 by 16-micrometer area with a pixel size of ten nanometers,” says Professor Peter Bøggild from DTU Physics.
“We’ve also printed an image of DTU’s founder—Hans Christian Ørsted—in an eight by 12-micrometer size with a pixel size of 2,540,000 DPI. We could write our signatures on a red blood cell with this thing to get an idea of the scale we are working at. But, the most radical thing is that we can create free-form 3D landscapes at that crazy resolution—this gray-scale nanolithography is a true game-changer for our research,” he said.
The Nanofrazor is a CNC (computer numerical control) device that removes material at particular locations, leaving the desired shape behind. It is unlike a printer that adds material to a medium.
“We decided that we might as well try and print a record. We’ve taken a snippet of ‘Rocking Around The Christmas Tree’ and have cut it just like you would cut a normal record, although, since we’re working on the nanoscale, this one isn’t playable on your average turntable. The Nanofrazor was put to work as a record-cutting lathe converting an audio signal into a spiraled groove on the surface of the medium. In this case, the medium is a different polymer than vinyl,” Peter added.
“We even encoded the music in stereo—the lateral wriggles is the left channel, whereas the depth modulation contains the right channel. It may be too impractical and expensive to become a hit record. To read the groove, you need a rather costly atomic force microscope or the Nanofrazor, but it is definitely doable.”
The NOVO Foundation grant BIOMAG, which enabled the Nanofrazor idea, is not about making Christmas records or printing portraits of celebrities. Other initiatives are in the works for Peter Bggild and his colleagues Tim Booth and Nolan Lassaline.
They anticipate that the Nanofrazor will enable them to sculpt 3D nanostructures in extremely fine detail at high speed and low cost, which is currently unattainable with conventional tools.
“The fact that we can now accurately shape the surfaces with nanoscale precision at pretty much the speed of imagination is a game changer for us. We have many ideas for what to do next and believe that this machine will significantly speed up prototyping new structures. Our main goal is to develop novel magnetic sensors for detecting currents in the living brain within the BIOMAG project,” said Associate professor Tim Booth.
“Still, we also look forward to creating precisely sculpted potential landscapes with which we can better control electron waves. There is much work to do,” he added.
Source: Technical University of Denmark