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February 3rd, 2008
Inside a massive, humming machine in the basement of Thornton Hall at the University of Virginia, John C. Bean is coating semiconductors with layers of silicon and germanium that are as thin as a single atom.
"I'm spray painting with atoms," said Bean, an electrical and computer engineering professor whose research aims to shrink transistors in an attempt to design a better computer chip.
Bean is a researcher in the field of nanotechnology, which involves the fabrication of devices and materials at the nano scale. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. For comparison, human DNA is roughly 2.5 nanometers in diameter. A sheet of paper is around 100,000 nanometers thick.
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