Chisel like an Egyptian

Inspired by the ancient Egyptians who used chisels to etch text and artistic drawings into stone, IBM scientists have created a "chisel" of their own that is 100,000 times smaller than the tip of a sharp pencil to create nano-sized objects and patterns in both 2 and 3D.

And not to be outdone, the scientists even created a little art of their own to prove that the technique worked.

Smaller planet
Creating and fabricating nano-sized objects, such as electronic components, has been accomplished by scientists around the world, but the ability to get below 30 nanometers and to fabricate these objects with high-precision has become increasingly more challenging for conventional tools and techniques.
Using their new technique, IBM scientists have demonstrated that they can create patterns and structures as small as 15 nanometers at very high resolutions, and at five to ten times less cost and far less complexity.
In one demonstration, the scientists used molecular glass to create a 25 nanometer-high 3D replica of the Matterhorn, a famous Alpine mountain that soars 4,478 m (14,692 ft) high.
In a second demonstration, they created a complete 3D map of the world on a polymer. This map is so small that 1000 copies could fit on a grain of salt. (check out the Flickr images)
"Advances in nanotechnology are intimately linked to the existence of high-quality methods and tools for producing nanoscale patterns and objects on surfaces," explains physicist Dr. Armin Knoll of IBM Research – Zurich. "With its broad functionality and unique 3D patterning capability, this nanotip-based patterning methodology is a powerful tool for generating very small structures."
The science behind the technique
The core components of this breakthrough are in two parts, the tip and the substrate.
The first is a tiny, very sharp silicon tip or "chisel" that measures 500 nanometers in length and only a few nanometers at its apex.
Similar to those used in atomic force microscopes, it's attached to a bendable cantilever that controllably scans the surface of the "stone" or substrate material with the accuracy of one nanometer – a millionth of a millimeter. By applying heat and force, the nano-sized tip can remove substrate material based on predefined patterns—operating like a "nanomilling" machine with ultra-high precision.
The second part was the substrate or material.  Finding the right substrate was particularly challenging, but working with a team of chemists at IBM's lab in Almaden, California, they actually discovered two materials including a molecular glass and a polymer that could handle the heat and pressure of the technique.
This patterning technique opens new prospects for developing nanosized objects in fields such as electronics, future chip technology, medicine, life sciences, and opto-electronics.
Both of these discoveries are being reported this week in the journals Science and Advanced Materials.


IBM Research First Quarter 2010 External Honors

External recognition demonstrates IBM Research's continuing contribution to the company and to the scientific community. Several researchers were recognized during the quarter:

Member - Major Honorary Academy

Major Award/Medal/Prize

  • James J. Wynne , 2010 Rank Prize in Optoelectronics, Rank Prize Funds, 02/2010


  • Tyrone W. Grandison, Trailblazer, BEYA, 01/2010
  • Ijeoma Nnebe, Special Recognition Award - Most Promising Scientist/Engineer Category, BEYA STEM Global Competitiveness Conference, 02/2010


Inventors’ Corner U.S. Patent 7,519,553 – Method and system for debt collection optimization

This invention, which enables the new IBM Tax Collections Optimizer, describes a technique that can help businesses and governments to optimize the collection of delinquent tax debts.  The invention uses a unique combination of data analytics and optimization techniques to automatically create individual action plans that maximize debt collection, given past historical data of tax collections activities.  

The optimized collection process takes into account a variety of key factors, including collector case load, personnel resources, and the anticipated effectiveness of the suggested actions.  It also assesses potential constraints governing the collection actions, as well as potential business and legal constraints on collection actions at any given situation for a given debtor.

The solution optimizes the collections actions of agents by taking into account the complex dependencies between resources, business needs and legal constraints. Using a variety of taxpayer data, such as the amount owed and past payment history, the system develops a plan for collecting from the entire population of delinquent tax payers.

IBM’s patented tax collection optimizer is helping organizations like the New York State Department of Taxation, more quickly and efficiently improve their collections results and enhance the productivity of agents.
U.S. Patent #7,519,553 was issued to inventors Naoki Abe, James J. Bennett, David L. Jensen, Richard D. Lawrence, Prem Melville, Edwin P. Pednault, Cezar Pendus, Chandan Reddy, and Vincent Thomas.