Engineering Madness: UConn Produces 'The World's Smallest Basketball'

STORRS, CT — A group of University of Connecticut engineers and materials science students has created “the world’s smallest basketball,” just in time for the NCAA Tournament.

Researchers from the materials science and engineering department, housed in the new Science 1 building, have used “the best-depth-resolution nanolithography in the world,” to do so.

Department head Bryan Huey said that, after the group determined a new technique worked, we members wanted to do “an eye-catching school spirit-related project,” to celebrate both basketball teams’ participation.

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The pictures, he said, were “”carved” into a crystalline substrate. Laterally, the patterns are about 4-5 um, considerably smaller than a human hair, which is roughly 50 um, he said. Micrometers (represented as µm) represent a length of measurement equal to one millionth of a meter.

And the depth of the engraving is only 5 nm, which is another 1000 times smaller than the width.

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“Hence, the world’s smallest basketball was chiseled here in Storrs,” he said.

The materials science and engineering faculty and students developed the technique over the last few years exclusively at UConn. It is a substantial improvement over existing AFM-based nanomachining that does not incorporate the extra iterative feedback, Huey said.
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The integrated feedback provides substantially more control, with error of only 0.5 nm.

“That’s less than just 5 layers of atoms,” Huey said.

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