/Scientists open new window into the nanoworld

Scientists open new window into the nanoworld

Summary: CU Boulder researchers have used ultra-fast extreme ultraviolet lasers to measure the properties of materials more than 100 times thinner than a human red blood cell.

Original author and publication date: Daniel Strain – July 15, 2020

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: We are now able to build devices so small, at a nanoscale, that we can change the way materials behave.

A "waveguide" that converts traditional laser light into laser-like beams at extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. (Credit: Kapteyn-Murnane Group)
A “waveguide” that converts traditional laser light into laser-like beams at extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. (Credit: Kapteyn-Murnane Group)

From the article

The team, led by scientists at JILA, reported its new feat of wafer-thinness this week in the journal Physical Review Materials. The group’s target, a film just 5 nanometers thick, is the thinnest material that researchers have ever been able to fully probe, said study coauthor Joshua Knobloch.

“This is a record-setting study to see how small we could go and how accurate we could be,” said Knobloch, a graduate student at JILA, a partnership between CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

He added that when things get small, the normal rules of engineering don’t always apply. The group discovered, for example, that some materials seem to get a lot softer the thinner they become.

The researchers hope that their findings may one day help scientists to better navigate the often-unpredictable nanoworld, designing tinier and more efficient computer circuits, semiconductors and other technologies. 

“If you’re doing nanoengineering, you can’t just treat your material like it’s a normal big material,” said Travis Frazer, lead author of the new paper and a former graduate student at JILA. “Because of the simple fact that it’s small, it behaves like a different material.”

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