BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Sci/Tech
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Thursday, 6 July, 2000, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Micro-machine tool developed
Wafer Science
A micro-structure etched into a silicon wafer
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

German scientists have developed a simple electrochemical way of making tiny three-dimensional structures.

Many scientists believe that miniature machines could find many applications in medicine and sensor technology. But the fabrication of very small parts - about a thousandth of a millimetre - is still a challenge.


Structure Science
A fly's eye and a micro-fabricated structure
Using a minute electrode, the scientists from the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin electrochemically etched a workpiece with microscopic precision.

The new technique uses ultra-short pulses of electricity between electrodes - the pulses last just a billionth of a second.

Copper and silicon

The very brief duration means the etching of the material is confined to very small areas near the electrode. This allows intricate and precise shape to be cut.

The procedure has already been demonstrated using copper and silicon. Other materials, such as alloys, may also be easily structured with high precision.

Scientists say that the positioning of the tool electrode close to the surface to be sculpted is at the heart of the new method.

A cylindrical tool electrode is used, which works like a grinder on a probe. Moving the tool through the workpiece enables the fabrication of three-dimensional structures.

The research is published in the journal Science.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

13 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
World's smallest tweezers
13 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Nanomachines get their orders
21 Feb 00 | Washington 2000
Smaller is better
28 Jan 99 | Sci/Tech
World's smallest pen
23 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Bacteria with a silver lining
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Sci/Tech stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Sci/Tech stories