Mini Machines

See what's possible when manufacturing goes micro in this gallery of images

We're still not sure how many angels could fit on the head of a pin (that would depend how many nanometers wide an angel is, naturally), but today's advanced micromachining techniques give scientists the ability to fabricate complex objects on a scale never before possible. And things just keep getting more interesting. See for yourself in this gallery of tiny wonders, from miniature submarines capable of sailing through your blood vessels to tiny eyeglasses for houseflies.

by Courtesy FEI Company/Tools for Nanotech

A focused ion beam created this two-micron-wide gear, seen here at 50,000x magnification.Courtesy FEI Company/Tools for Nanotech

by Courtesy Sandia National Laboratories/SUMMiT Technologies

This chain of six microscopic gears can be used to drive micro-engines at speeds of up to 25,000 rpm. Longer chains can also be used in complex electronic locking mechanisms that are practically unpickable--each gear has to be precisely aligned in order to activate an electronic switch.Courtesy Sandia National Laboratories/SUMMiT Technologies

by Courtesy Sandia National Laboratories/SUMMiT Technologies

A mite measuring 500 microns long sits on a mirror array used for optical data switching. The mirror [left] is positioned with a microscopic gear mechanism.Courtesy Sandia National Laboratories/SUMMiT Technologies

by Courtesy FEI Company/Tools for Nanotech

The platinum tip of a six-micron-long atom probe--a device used to analyze the distribution of individual atoms in alloys and other substances--is seen here at 25,000x magnification.Courtesy FEI Company/Tools for Nanotech

by Courtesy Micreon GmbH

This preserved housefly is sporting a pair of two-millimeter-wide eyeglasses, engineered with ultra-precise fast-pulse laser technology.Courtesy Micreon GmbH

by Courtesy Micreon GmbH

This two-millimeter-tall camel was made of gold foil and posed here passing through the eye of a needle just 300 microns wide.Courtesy Micreon GmbH

by Courtesy Eye of Science/Photo Researchers, Inc

This minuscule submarine, molded from an acrylic liquid that solidifies when it comes in contact with a computer-controlled laser beam, measures just four millimeters in length. It is hoped that such devices will soon have Fantastic Voyageâ€style medical applications for treating the body on a microscopic level.Courtesy Eye of Science/Photo Researchers, Inc

micross_1.jpg

An array of holes, each measuring approximately 125 nanometers in length, was precision-drilled with a computer-controlled focused ion beam.