Atomic Sculpting with a Microscope

A new tool now rests in the 3D printing toolbox. The electron beam in a scanning transmission electron microscope has been exquisitely controlled with specially programmed electronics to tunnel into non-crystalline material and construct 3D features that are in perfect alignment with the underlying substrate (i.e., epitaxial). The result is designer materials with desirable structures, such as microchips, or materials with unique properties. Essentially, any shape can be created by exposing patterned areas to higher numbers of electrons than non-patterned areas, resulting in epitaxial 3D features down to 1-2 nanometers —less that the width of a strand of DNA.”