IBM scientists create the smallest 3D map of planet Earth

January 18, 2012 by Steve Hamm
IBM scientists create the smallest 3D map of planet Earth

The map, produced on a tiny sliver of polymer, measures just 22 by 11 micrometers. To put that into perspective, 1000 copies of the map could fit within a single grain of salt.

An achievement made last year by IBM scientists can’t really compare with the largest collection of Charlie’s Angels memorabilia (5,569 items), the most body piercings in one session (3,900) or the longest cucumber (47 inches), all Guinness World Records, but IBM’s nanotech experts have attained a Guinness record of their own. Their feat: creating the smallest 3D map of Earth.

The map, produced on a tiny sliver of , measures just 22 by 11 micrometers. To put that into perspective, 1000 copies of the map could fit within a single grain of salt.

The Guinness World Record organization recognized the handiwork of IBM scientists in Zurich, Switzerland, and Almaden, Calif., in its new book, Guinness World Records 2012. (Officially they are no longer called the Guinness Book of World Records.)

Unlike many other Guinness participants, the scientists weren’t motivated by a desire for 15 minutes of pop-culture fame. Rather, they created their tiny map to demonstrate a breakthrough in the miniaturization of complex structures. They expect their techniques to open new prospects for developing nanoscale objects in a variety of fields including electronics, medicine, life sciences and opto-electronics.
How did the IBMers do it? They used a tiny silicon tip with a sharp point — 100,000 times smaller than a sharpened pencil — to create the miniature patterns. The etching technique is very similar to how the ancient Egyptian’s used chisels on stone to create drawings and hieroglyphics.

Since some members of the team are avid mountaineers, they also created a 25-nanometer-high 3D replica of the Matterhorn.

True, neither the tiny Matterhorn nor the tiny Earth compare for sheer weirdness with the record for the greatest distance traveled with a pool cue balanced on the chin (5,472 ft 9 in), but, heck, they’re pretty darn cool.

Explore further: Sharpest microscope tip lands researchers in Guinness Book of World Records

Related Stories

A close-up look at the world's smallest book

March 25, 2011

What did Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Joséphine de Beauharnais (the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte) and Stanley Marcus of the Neiman Marcus department store dynasty have in common? All were enchanted with the miniature ...

Aussie croc named biggest in captivity

September 15, 2011

An Australian crocodile called Cassius Clay was on Thursday declared the biggest in captivity by Guinness World Records, although his reign may be brief after reports of a rival giant emerged.

Recommended for you

Nano-decoy lures human influenza A virus to its doom

October 25, 2016

To infect its victims, influenza A heads for the lungs, where it latches onto sialic acid on the surface of cells. So researchers created the perfect decoy: A carefully constructed spherical nanoparticle coated in sialic ...

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

October 24, 2016

Yuan Yang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Columbia Engineering, has developed a new method to increase the energy density of lithium (Li-ion) batteries. He has built a trilayer structure that ...

Nanofiber coating prevents infections of prosthetic joints

October 24, 2016

In a proof-of-concept study with mice, scientists at The Johns Hopkins University show that a novel coating they made with antibiotic-releasing nanofibers has the potential to better prevent at least some serious bacterial ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.