You know all that sawdust you’re left with when hacking through a piece of lumber? It’s a minor inconvenience for carpenters, but a huge problem for electronics manufacturers cutting expensive materials like silicon wafers on the microscopic scale. So researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute have found a way to make incredibly precise ultra-thin saws from carbon nanotubes covered with an outer layer of lab-grown diamonds.
Traditionally, diamond-impregnated steel wires have been used to cut these materials. But they can only be made so small, which results in lost material (and lost profits) from the resulting groove, also known as kerf. The idea for coating carbon nanotube-based wires in diamonds has actually been around for a while, but the manufacturing process needed to create such a material actually ends up destroying the carbon tubes in the process.
Like with many great inventions, though, the Fraunhofer researchers found a way to protect the carbon nanotubes while the outer diamond layer was being artificially grown by accident, which results in a strong but incredibly thin cutting implement that minimises the amount of material lost. The tiny saws are still tricky to produce, but as the researchers refine the manufacturing process they’re optimistic they’ll be readily adopted by manufacturers around the world.
Now all we need are some microscopic plaid shirts for the itty bitty lumberjacks that’ll wield them. [Fraunhofer Institute]