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Physicists write microscopic paragraph
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Old 9th April 2005, 04:47   #1
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Default Physicists write microscopic paragraph

SPANISH PHYSICISTS have used new data storage techniques to pen the first paragraph of a book onto a silicon chip so small that the entire novel would fit on the tips of six human hairs.
The concept of writing things on small objects has been around for some time, and, face it, flash new storage techniques are about as interesting as a 21 page blockbusting press release on printer ribbon ink. But this act of micro-storage was done just to break the ice at a party to celebrate the 400th anniversary of publication of "Don Quixote" so we have to admire them.

The technique, developed by the Microelectronics Institute of Madrid, used an atomic force microscope, which ran a ceramic or semiconductor tip over a silicon surface.

Using water vapour which was lying around in the atmosphere and an electric charge, the tip etched out tiny letters on the surface of the chip.

In this case the boffins penned the first 10 lines of Don Quixote. It would be too small to see without an electron microscope, but the INQ cultural department tells us it runs something like:

"In a certain village in La Mancha, which I do not wish to name, there lived not long ago a gentleman - one of those who have always a lance in the rack, an ancient shield, a lean hack and a greyhound for coursing."

According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, the technique can be used to make computer chips and electronic paper, thin flexible sheets that can store and erase information. The text will probably be a bit bigger.

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