In January 2012, US tech giant IBM's Swiss laboratory stunned the world when they unveiled the world's smallest globe. Measuring a mere 22 by 11 microns, it was so tiny that 1,000 of them could be placed on a single grain of salt. Now, the scientists have done it again with this even tinier, National Geographic Kids Magazine cover. Measuring 11 by 14 microns, it is about half the size of the globe, which means that up to 2,000 of the covers could easily fit on a grain of salt!
The latest feat, which was commissioned by the kids magazine, was unveiled on Friday, April 25th, at the U.S. National Science and Engineering Festival in Washington DC. Not surprisingly, it was immediately proclaimed the world's smallest magazine cover, by Guinness World Records.
The grainy, but detailed reproduction of the cover of the March edition of the National Geographic Kids magazine featuring cuddly Panda twins, was made using a machine called the NanoFrazor.
Chief scientist and co-inventor Urs Duering, says that the technique behind creating these minuscule objects is similar to the one used when chiseling rocks.
Except in this case, the material is a polymer and the chisel that carves out the image, a heated silicon tip 100,000 times smaller than a sharpened pencil point.
Called nanopatterning or nanomilling, it entails heating the tiny tip to 1000°C and then positioning it over the thin sheet of plastic, so that it can chisel away the excess material by local evaporation, similar to how 3D printers 'print' objects.
In case you are wondering, National Geographic Kids has no plans to shrink your favorite magazine to this invisible nano scale. They partnered with IBM to simply showcase this cool technology to kids and get them excited about the science behind it. To get their young readers into the spirit, they even ran a poll asking them to pick the magazine cover they would like to see shrunk. Of course the prospect of getting their ninth Guinness World Record could have played some role in the collaboration decision too!
IBM on the other hand, has a more serious motive behind creating the technology that they licensed to Zurich-based start-up SwissLitho, the inventor of the NanoFrazer machine. They believe that it can be used to create even tinier silicon chips which will be useful for products ranging from electronics to medical devices and even, security tags for things like currency and passports.
While you may have missed the chance to vote for your favorite 'shrunk' cover, it is still not too late to voice your opinion on an even more important issue - The endangered animal we should try save. Be sure to cast your vote on the National Geographic Kids Book Club. While there, take some time to check out the free giveaways and maybe, even voice your opinion about the ongoing endangered animal debate, by writing a comment or two.
Resources: gizmag.com, theguardian.com