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NEC boffins have built a wine glass 200,000 times smaller than normal. 'Why?' might be one immediate response. 'Do the laws of physics allow the formation of a drop of wine that small?' could be another.

Researchers built the glass from carbon with an external diameter of 2750nm, approximately 200,000 times smaller than a normal-sized glass.

NEC hopes the success of the new technique will open the way for the production of ultra-miniature devices such as biosensors, high-performance optical communications devices, and control switches. The technology could also have applications in the fields of nano-electromechanics, nano-optics, nano-magnetic devices, bio-nanochips and sensors, says the company.

Currently, building such a small structure would involve the same type of two-dimensional processes used to manufacture semiconductors. But using contemporary 2D semiconductor processes to build 3D structures is inefficient and unnecessarily complicated.

The newly developed technique used to construct the wine glass is based on the use of a gallium-focused ion beam with a diameter of 10nm and a computer controlled electro-magnetic deflection system capable of building the target object in realtime in a gas containing the base material.

The combination of the focused gallium ion beam and construction from the base material in gaseous form, controlled by a 3D CAD system, permits an accuracy better than (below) 100nm. ®

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