The world has been abuzz with Star Wars references surrounding the record-breaking release of Episode VII:The Force Awakens. My personal favorite has to be this pun-filled weather forecast from the UK’s Channel 5 news, though my dear mother’s hand-painted Wookie cookies are a close second.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, our science-focused social media feeds have also been exploring that galaxy far, far away. National Geographic published some surprising Star Wars related research and findings earlier this month; our old friend Neil deGrasse Tyson has been debunking some sketchy Star Wars science over on Twitter (there’s a quick round-up available on NBC); and here at Northwestern, the Atomic and Nanoscale Characterization Experimental Center (or NUANCE) has gone a step further.
Eric Miller, a microscopy specialist at NUANCE, has built the world’s smallest Millennium Falcon. Miller’s Falcon is made of platinum and measures 19.5 micrometers in length. Using an FEI Helios Focused Ion Beam microscope, Miller deposited this incredibly thin layer of platinum onto a silicon substrate and then etched in the details.
So how small is it? A micrometer, or micron for short, is one thousand times smaller than a millimeter. There are more than 25,000 microns in an inch and a red blood cell can be up to 10 microns across.
At 19.5 microns, this Millennium Falcon is less than half the width of an average human hair. While it can’t travel at 1050 kph like its namesake, it’s still a pretty amazing homage to one of the galaxy’s most beloved ships.