Out of Zion has come the world’s tiniest Bible, engraved in gold on silicon, to illustrate the science of nanotechnology.
More than 300,000 words and 1,200,000 letters, including vowels have been placed on less than half a square millimeter, allowing the tiny Torah to fit inside the first dot of the first letter of a traditional Torah scroll.
“We took a piece of silicon and evaporated a very small layer of gold over it, about twenty nanometers thick,” explained Ohad Zohar, a Ph.D. student at the Technion, on Israel National Radio’s Yishai Fleisher Show. A nanometer is about a billionth of a meter.
“We then used a focused ion beam to inscribe the Biblical text on it,” Zohar said. “What the focused ion beam does is shoot gallium ions, focusing the charged particles on the substrip [of gold]. It digs little holes and each hole is a pixel for whatever picture you would like. In our case this is the Tanach [Five Books of Moses, Prophets and Writings –ed.].”
“What did you make this for?” asked Fleisher.
“It is not for ordinary use, of course,” Zohar said. “To read it you need very expensive equipment. You cannot read it with a magnifying glass or even the best optical microscope. You need an electron microscope to read it. It is not intended to replace any storage devices out there. We did this as part of a massive educational program aimed at mostly high school students to explain different methods of storing information and spark an interest in Nanotechnology.” The project was sponsored and conducted at the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at Haifa's Technion Institute of Technology.
“What does the future hold for such technology?” Fleisher asked.
“The current technology is predicted to continue shrinking and doubling capacity for many years until some ultimate limitation is reached,” Zohar said. “Storing the same amount of information will take four times this area on a modern hard disk, and about 140 times this area on a triple layer DVD. Our nano-bible is [currently] a record holder. But in the future we can think about putting information, one bit per atom, on a substrip. On our Bible, we used 14 nanometers diameter for the smallest dot we had. So if we use an atom, the diameter will be only one tenth of a nanometer – two hundred times smaller. This is interesting. It is 160,000 times denser than our Bible.
“Also, the information for our Bible is encoded in small holes 20 nanometers deep, but the chip itself is half a millimeter thick. To achieve higher storage densities we will have to utilize the volume of the storage media and not only its surface. One working example we are familiar with is the storage of our genetic information in DNA molecules. If we could achieve a comparable storage density, we could fit a billion copies of the bible in the volume of our chip.”
Zohar sees the Bible project as a modern throwback to the etching of the ancient text. “We carved it in stone – silicon and gold. We did it the ancient way – just much, much smaller,” he said.
“The nano-Bible project demonstrates the ability of miniaturization at our disposal. We are working hard at present on photographing the nano-Bible using the Scanning Electron Microscope, with the aim of enlarging the photo by 10,000 times and displaying it on a giant wall in the Technion’s Faculty of Physics. In this picture, which will be 7 meters by 7 meters, it will be possible to read the entire Bible with the naked eye (the height of each letter will be some 3 millimeters). Near this picture, the original – the nano-Bible itself, which is the size a grain of sugar – will be displayed,” Zohar said.