NINT/University of Alberta team in Guinness Book of World Records

A tungsten needle that’s one atom thick got a team of researchers led by Dr. Robert Wolkow, Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT) Principal Investigator and University of Alberta Physics Professor, Dr. Jason Pitters, Research Council Officer at NINT and Dr. Mohamed Rezeq, formerly of NINT and currently at the Institute of Materials Research & Engineering in Singapore into the Guinness Book of World Records. From the March 1, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

A very tiny, very sharp object has put Canadian researchers at the National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) and University of Alberta into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Only one atom at its end point, the tip used in electron microscopes is the sharpest man-made object. It is made of Tungsten and fabricated using a patented controlled etching method. It is currently being evaluated for its commercial potential.

“We did not start out to set a world record; we were trying to make a better tool for our research.” Team leader Robert Wolkow said in reaction to the record “Having a world record is a fun achievement, but we are really interested in commercializing this product.”

The needle was first created in 2006. From the Mar. 2, 2011 news article by Mariam Ibrahim in The Edmonton Journal [this excerpt is not from the online version of the article],

Four years ago, Wolkow and his research team created the tiny microscope tip out of tungsten to be used for a scanned probe microscope, which operates similar to the way a record player needle feels bumps and grooves that are imprinted on a record. The extremely sharp point of the tungsten tip can be moved around a surface to feel out the minuscule grooves and bumps, a task that proved difficult and unreliable before his team’s invention, said Wolkow, who is also a physics professor at the University of Alberta.

The imaging gathered from the microscope tip can be mapped to provide scientists a more accurate image of what they’re studying.

The tip, which scientists continue to refine, was fashioned out of tungsten because of the material’s strength and durability. Since it was created, scientists have realized the tip can also be used to change the topography of a surface on an atomic scale, which could lead to developments in electronic devices such as computer processors, Wolkow said.

“We’re talking about the possibility of making computers that would consume about 1,000 times less energy than today’s computers,” he said.

“It’s really exciting.” Along the way, two new uses for the creation have emerged. The tip is an exquisite source for both ions and electrons and can be used in microscopes that operate using both types of particles, Wolkow said.

Bravo to Robert Wolkow, Jason Pitters, Mohamed Rezeq and NINT!

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