Coming soon: Manufacturing with every atom in its proper place

Oct 19, 2010

The long-held dream of creating atomically precise three-dimensional structures in a manufacturing environment is approaching reality, according to the top scientist at a company making tools aimed at that ambitious goal.

John Randall, Vice President of Zyvex Labs in Richardson, Tex., says his researchers have demonstrated a process that uses a scanning tunneling microscope tip to remove protective surface hydrogen atoms from silicon one at a time and then adds single atomic layers of silicon only to those meticulously cleared areas. Randall describes the achievement today at the AVS 57th International Symposium & Exhibition, which takes place this week in the Albuquerque Convention Center in New Mexico.

To date, Zyvex Labs researchers have demonstrated removal of 50 hydrogen atoms per second. But with experience and innovation, Randall predicts large improvements in the speed of this limiting factor.

"There are many paths to scale-up, including parallelism," he says. "A thousand-fold increase in speed will be fairly easy to achieve."

Within seven years, Randall expects that Zyvex Labs will be selling initial production tools that can remove more than a million hydrogen atoms a second using 10 parallel tips at a cost of about $2,000 per cubic micrometer of added silicon (48 billion atoms).

Applications that would benefit most from having tiny atomically precise structures include nanopore membranes, qubit structures for quantum computers and nanometrology standards. Larger-scale applications, such as nanoimprint templates, would need still further cost-performance improvements to become economically viable.

The Zyvex process is currently used only on silicon surfaces, which are typically coated with hydrogen atoms bound to any exposed silicon atoms. The process has two steps: first, in an ultra high vacuum, a is directed to remove individual from only those locations where additional silicon will later be added. Second, a silicon hydride gas is introduced. A single layer of these molecules adheres to any exposed hydrogen-free silicon atoms. After deposition, the gas is removed and the process is repeated to build up as many three-dimensional layers of atomically pure as is needed.

Explore further: Crafting ultrathin color coatings: Physicists produce vivid optical effects—on paper

More information: www.avssymposium.org/Open/Sear… PaperNumber=NS-TuM-3

Provided by American Institute of Physics

4.7 /5 (33 votes)

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User comments : 11

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marraco
5 / 5 (3) Oct 19, 2010
Their main use could be repairing chips fabricated with errors.

It would solve low yields problems.
Mercury_01
4.8 / 5 (5) Oct 19, 2010
One day we'll be able to manipulate atoms of every variety into any configuration imaginable. We'll input a design file, and out of a machine will come a perfectly manufactured unit. Anyone remember the alien technology from SG1?
Quantum_Conundrum
5 / 5 (1) Oct 19, 2010
One day we'll be able to manipulate atoms of every variety into any configuration imaginable. We'll input a design file, and out of a machine will come a perfectly manufactured unit. Anyone remember the alien technology from SG1?


eh? I'm pretty sure that was in Star Trek 3 decades before SG-1.

I did the math a minute ago, and this would cost $2 trillion-billion per cubic centimeter.
nanotech_republika_pl
5 / 5 (3) Oct 19, 2010
If I remember well, back in 90s, Zyvex was the first company that had a goal of using molecular nanotechnology to build things one atom at a time. I think this is simply just another example of pushing the nanotech frontier by this company. Company worth watching.
Husky
5 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2010
Iwould love to see them use this to stitch together carbon nanotubes, buckyballs and/or graphene sheets, graphene coated with hydrogen is called graphane and hydrogenated buckyball a fuzzyball, so, selective removal and exposure to carbon plasma arc would allow to grow arbitrary carbon strucures, instead of a precise, but slow and tedious/expensive STM mechanical removal i would think of borrowing methods used in electron/ion beam lithography or laser
gmurphy
4 / 5 (1) Oct 19, 2010
I share the optimism and pesimism of the preceding posts, the scaling factor is the real issue, even a grain of sand will contain many millions of atoms.
trekgeek1
not rated yet Oct 19, 2010
One day we'll be able to manipulate atoms of every variety into any configuration imaginable. We'll input a design file, and out of a machine will come a perfectly manufactured unit. Anyone remember the alien technology from SG1?


eh? I'm pretty sure that was in Star Trek 3 decades before SG-1.

I did the math a minute ago, and this would cost $2 trillion-billion per cubic centimeter.


I think you're off by a factor of 1000. 1 cubic centimeter is 10^12 cubic micrometers. 2000 dollars multiplied by 10^12 is 2x10^15 which I believe is 2 million-billion, or 2 quadrillion dollars. Still very high, but perhaps the volume was misquoted or that is the cost today, and it will exponentially drop over the next 7 years.
EvgenijM
not rated yet Oct 20, 2010
I did the math a minute ago, and this would cost $2 trillion-billion per cubic centimeter.


There is no need to manufacture the whole thing with this technology on macro scale - it should only be applied where atomic precision is critically important.
Olivia
not rated yet Oct 25, 2010
This means teleportation dude.
AgentG
not rated yet Oct 25, 2010
I share the optimism and pesimism of the preceding posts, the scaling factor is the real issue, even a grain of sand will contain many millions of atoms.


Estimating a Si-O bond at 180 pm, a 1mm grain of sand will have on the order of 10e27 atoms, or 10e21 million atoms. This shows how inadequately 'million' and 'billion' convey dimensions at the atomic scale.
Mercury_01
not rated yet Nov 25, 2010
One day we'll be able to pick up a replicator from wal mart for 39.99 on black friday. its only a matter of time.

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