Atomic Pen Inscribes Nano-Sized Text, Paves Way for Pint Sized PCs

Paul Lilly

Next to the "atomic pen", having your name written on a grain of rice is laughably large. That's because the text size to beat - which, by the way, isn't beatable - measures just 2 x 2 nanometers, or about the equivalent of 40,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

"It's not possible to write any smaller than this," said Masayuki Abe , a researcher involved in the project.

Abe is part of a research team at Osaka University who recently demonstrated the atomic pen inscribing nano-sized text. The pen was built based on a previous discovery in which silicon atoms at the tip of an atomic force microscope probe will interchange with the tin atoms in the surface of a semiconductor sample when in close proximity. Using this method, the researchers arranged individual silicon atoms one at a time to write the letters "Si," a task which took the team about an hour and a half.

But there's more at stake here than invisible vandalism. Researchers say the atomic pen could lead to advances in atomic scale technology, eventually making it possible to build a PC small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Image Credit: Ashai

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