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Students make nanotech breakthrough
Three students at the Kochi University of Technology have discovered a nanotechnological method to mass-produce superfine silicon cones, which could possibly lead to the development of television sets with ultrathin displays.

Keiichi Ishimoto, 19, and two other students at the university, located in Tosayamadacho, Kochi Prefecture, had been working on plasma chemical vapor deposition experiments in December last year when they made their discovery.

The three, then freshmen, accidentally found a fast and easy way to mass-produce superfine silicon cones--one two-thousandth the diameter of a human hair--according to associate Prof. Akimitsu Hatta of the university's electrical engineering department, who tutors and advises engineering students including the three who developed the silicon mass-production method.

"We've already applied for a joint patent with an electronics company," said Hatta, an expert in electronic and photonic systems.

"It's been a coincidental but very productive discovery and a significant academic victory for the students," he said.

The nanotechnology experiment was done using a silicon board, on which iron powder was placed as a medium. Methane gas and hydrogen were processed by way of plasma chemical vapor deposition, resulting in neat rows of very small silicon cones.

Two billion to three billion cones of such hyperfine silicon--measuring approximately five nanometers in diameter at their tips--are neatly alligned on each square centimeter of the board's surface.

After repeating the experiments, it was confirmed that the cones could be quickly mass-produced without having to go through complicated laboratory procedures, Hatta said.

Copyright 2002 The Yomiuri Shimbun