DTU researchers used the Nanofrazor to create the world's tiniest record featuring the first 25 seconds of "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree." (Image Credit: DTU Physics)
DTU Physics researchers developed a 40-micrometer record with the first 25 seconds of "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree." The team used the recently acquired Nanofrazor, a new nano-sculpting machine, to make the world's smallest record cut. This device engraves "3D patterns into surfaces with nanoscale resolution," leading to nanostructures that could help unlock new technologies in magnetic sensors, quantum devices, and electron optics.
"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. We've also printed an image of DTU's founder—Hans Christian Ørsted—in an 8 by 12-micrometer size with a pixel size of 2,540,000 DPI. To get an idea of the scale we are working at, we could write our signatures on a red blood cell with this thing," says Professor Peter Bøggild from DTU Physics."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."
The Nanofrazor functions like a CNC machine, removing material in certain areas to produce a shape. For instance, the mini Mona Lisa and H.C. Ørsted images were created by eliminating individual polymer lines until a gray-scale image appeared.
"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," says Bøggild "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."
(Image Credit: DTU Physics)
The team wants to use the Nanofrazor to precisely create 3D nanostructures at high speed and an affordable cost, which can't be achieved with traditional equipment. "We work with 2D materials, and when these ultrathin materials are carefully laid down on the 3D landscapes, they follow the contours of the surface. In short, they curve, and that is a powerful and entirely new way of 'programming' materials to do things that no one would believe were possible just fifteen years ago. For instance, when curved in just the right way, graphene behaves as if there is a giant magnetic field when there is, in fact, none. And we can curve it just the right way with the Nanofrazor," says Bøggild.
Postdoc Nolan Lassaline, who cut the Christmas record, will produce quantum soap bubbles in graphene. He plans to use the Nanofrazor to produce new structuring nanomaterials and methods to manipulate electrons in atomically thin materials.
"Quantum soap bubbles are smooth electronic potentials where we add artificially tailored disorders. By doing so, we can manipulate how electrons flow in graphene. We hope to understand how electrons move in engineered disordered potentials and explore if this could become a new platform for advanced neural networks and quantum information processing," says Lassaline.
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