TU creates universe's tiniest TARDIS

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An image from the BBC program "Doctor Who" was milled onto a human hair.

Nano-TARDISThe University of Tulsa is a serious leader in nanotechnology research, however that doesn’t preclude the scientists and engineers at TU’s Nanotechnology Institute from having fun, too.

The institute’s director, Professor Dale Teeters, recently discovered a contest sponsored by the BBC and its top-rated science-fiction program “Doctor Who,” in which a mysterious alien time traveler picks up human companions, faces evil foes, and journeys throughout time and space in a police phone booth called the TARDIS.

The contest required entrants to build their own TARDIS, document the project and then display the final product in a public place. There are hundreds of entries, and the judging is largely subjective, but Teeters and other researchers in the TU College of Engineering and Natural Sciences created a unique submission for the competition. 

The manager of TU’s Nano fabrication lab, Paige Johnson, milled an image of the TARDIS onto a human hair using a beam of gallium ions within TU’s scanning electron microscope. Photos and a video of the process were made so the team could display it publicly, as stipulated by contest rules.

Teeters, who is chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, along with Johnson, mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Mike Keller (who’s a ringer for the current “Doctor”), Oklahoma Nanotechnology Initiative Director Jim Mason, and several other ENS faculty and staff members worked on the project.

“Win or lose the contest, we think this project will highlight the work we do to a broader audience,” Teeters said.

Nanotechnology refers to the ability to construct products and materials with atomic precision. This requires contributions from various technical disciplines, including chemistry, engineering and physics. Current research that is being done in ENS in the areas of nanopower supplies, sensor technology, modeling, control and advanced nanostructured materials fits into this area of concentration. The goal of the Nanotechnology Institute is to stimulate further collaboration between TU faculty and students in this area.

Please click here to view TU’s Nano-TARDIS entry online.


Mona Chamberlin