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The fields of microelectronics and satellite communications eagerly await new and more efficient materials that may one day be developed based on the insights gained in research of this kind.
Gourmet chefs chop carrots and onions into extremely fine slices. Scientists, on the other hand, work with crystals. And though the crystals may be only a few microns thick _ mere films that can't be seen by the naked eye _ scientists labor to make them even thinner. The goal: to determine at what point these films begin to take on properties different from those of the original crystals, and then _ to observe the unique characteristics that these "divergent" films may possess.
The stumbling block in this endeavor is the films' tendency to collapse at a thickness of five microns (five millionths of a meter). Though placing them on a surface would prevent collapse, it would also affect their properties (surfaces affect properties of all films except those originating from diamond crystals). Thus this solution, while stabilizing the films, would make analysis of their properties shaky at best.
Dr. Igor Lubomirsky of the Weizmann Institute's Materials and Interfaces Department studies thin insulating films supported only at their edges. Like the skin of a drum, the films _ which scientists dub "freestanding films" _ have no contact with a surface at their center. To conduct this research, Lubomirsky is developing new techniques for the preparation of the films and for their characterization. Thus far he has created freestanding films as thin as 160 nanometers (1 nanometer = 10-9 meter). While the goal of this research is to achieve basic knowledge, the fields of microelectronics and satellite communications eagerly await new and more efficient materials that may one day be developed based on the insights gained in research of this kind.
Dr. Lubomirsky's research is supported by Arcadi Gaydamac of France.