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Tiny Flags Salute Nanotechnology

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ITHACA, N.Y., March 30 -- In a salute to nanotechnology, Cornell University researchers have etched the world's smallest, full-color American flag on a silicon chip. The flag is part of an elaborate nanofabrication that includes six full-color flags and 15 White Houses, all etched on the chip.

NANOWEIGHT: The chip is mounted in this Lucite paperweight for presentation to the White House.
   The size of a postage stamp, the chip has been placed in a Lucite paperweight that will be presented to the White House today in Washington, D.C., by Joshua Wolfe, a Cornell graduate and managing partner of Lux Capital, a New York City venture capital firm specializing in nanotechnology. It will be accepted on behalf of President George Bush by John Marburger III, science adviser to the president.

Later an identical paperweight will be presented to Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Science Committee.

The flag and the White House images were produced using advanced photolithographic tools in the National Science Foundation-supported Cornell Nanoscale Facility.

All told, the chip features 15 monochrome images of the White House flanked by six full-color American flags, embedded with microscopic features that reflect the colors of the stars and stripes. There are three visible White House images and a dozen nano-size ones, 500 microns wide and 225 microns high (a micron is one-thousandth of a millimeter), that appear as dots without magnification. All the White House images are flying an American flag.

GOVERNMENT DOWNSIZING: A microphoto of the chip design, with enlarged versions of the flag portion. (Photos copyright © Cornell University)
   "To put all of this into perspective, three stars on the flag that flies over the nano-built White House would fit across the width of a red blood cell," says Carl Batt, Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of Food Science at Cornell, who is developing food-safety biosensors using nanotechnology. "The wires inside today's computer chips are now routinely thinner than the thinnest column in the White House nano-images. In fact, you could line up five computer wires across the width of the White House column."

The nanofabricated American flags and White Houses were created by Cornell research associates Scott Stelick and Madanagopal Kunnavakkam, both of whom work in Batt's laboratory. The chip was made to honor the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, which authorizes four-year funding for nanotechnology research starting in 2005. The legislation, introduced by Boehlert, creates programs supported by the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

For more information, visit:
Mar 2004
The use of atoms, molecules and molecular-scale structures to enhance existing technology and develop new materials and devices. The goal of this technology is to manipulate atomic and molecular particles to create devices that are thousands of times smaller and faster than those of the current microtechnologies.
Cornell NanoScale FacilityCornell UniversitynanofabricationnanotechnologyNational Science FoundationNews & Featuresphotolithographic toolsSensors & DetectorsWhite House

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