Picture of the Day: Nano Trek – The Tiniest Enterprise

With all the debate over how big new Enterprise is, here is something from the other side of the spectrum. There is cool Trek-themed image that is making its way across the blogosphere. The picture depicts the world’s smallest Enterprise at just a few microns across, check it out below with more details.



Nano Trek

This 8.8 micron model of the USS Enterprise was created using an ion beam that guides vaporized chemicals and deposits them into a given shape and is magnified 5000 times.

The Tiniest Enterprise — smaller than a fraction of the width of a human hair

Although the image has shown up on a number of blogs over the last few days, it is actually not new. "Nano Trek" is actually 7 years old and was a submission to the The 47th International Conference on Electron, Ion and Photon Beam Technology and Nanofabrication Bizarre/Beautiful Micrograph Contest (how about that technobabble?). "Nano Trek" was the winning entry for Best Ion Micrograft and comes from Takayuki Hoshino & Shinji Matsui, Himeji Institute of Technology (who are apparently Trekkies).

Here is their official description:

Nano Space – The final frontier. The space ship Enterprise NCC-1701D of Star Trek was fabricated in one-billionth scale by 30 kV Ga+ focused-ion- beam CVD using phenanthrene gas. Length 8.8 µm

It just goes to show you…wherever you go in scientific research, whatever the subject at hand, there is bound to be a Trekkie around trying to break through that frontier.


Thanks to all the readers who sent in tips via email and Twitter

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I’d say that something went wrong with the warp field. ;)

#1 – I’d say it’s pretty much an exact replica for the Enterprise-D. ;)

I take it that’s the E-D?

Pretty neat. I wonder how difficult it was to make that?

It looks a lot like the E-C!

Cool. Though Picard must be bummin’ about the saucer section.

#1 – Looks more like Q’s doing.

not to sound….dumb….but, Anthony….could you please add an update to this article that best explains what this is and how its made….in layman’s terms?

The 47th Conference? Really? Can this be a coincidence?

Put a sugar cube next to it and you have the “Best of Both Worlds.”

So either this Enterprise is really made of tin, or you meant to say “tiniest”…

Wow, that’s definitely “One Little Ship” :)

don’t call me tiny

Hmm, is this crew a member of CMDF?

That’s certainly different.
And yeah, the 47th conference, Really?

Q is responsible for this…

Pretty cool, although Looks like that saucer has seen better days lol

Two years ago I edged the contours of a Dalek into metal. I think it was around 40 µm big. I’ll see if I find an image of it :)

“Er, No.1, did you take the Saucer out last night?”

“Um, no.”

“You sure?”

“Sure, I’m sure. Why?”

“It’s just I came down this morning and there’s a big dent in it.”

“Really? Where?”




“Oh, that’s pretty tiny. You can, like, buff that right out”

“It’s. Frickin’. Enormous…. Are you sure you don’t have anything you want to tell me?”

“Um, no, no. I don’t think so.”

“You’re SO grounded, young man”

“AWWWWWW But I didn’t DO anything!”

Yeah yeah, been there, done that. Catspaw, Requiem for Methuselah.

No, seriously, this is amazing technology. Kudos!

Too bad we can’t see Raquel Welch in her spandex white frogman suit, sportin a laser, in one of the windows! : )


Nice! This must be the first of a whole new line of “battle-damage” miniatures, soon to be followed by the battle-damage versions of the Reliant and the self-destructed Enterprise from ST III!

Seriously, though – this is pretty sweet!

i can see where folks may think the saucer has seen better days, but maybe that’s just the battle bridge and the real saucer is somewhere else?

Mini Prise. Okay, so the crew complement is…..? Ya know, that reminds me of the movie Fantastic Voyage.

Hm, I could send you some pictures of the Trek stuff I’ve made in my basic microbiology course… ;)

It looks like the ship had an encounter with a distortion ring, but it still is pretty awesome!

I’m sorry, but if they expect me to buy a ship model that small, they had better make it a whole lot more accurate. I’d be ashamed to bring out the electron microscope to show it off to all my cool friends with it looking like that.

hahaha I love this! how funny! Someone obviously doesn’t have enough to do….:) tiniest enterprise! haha

“It just goes to show you…wherever you go in scientific research, whatever the subject at hand, there is bound to be a Trekkie around trying to break through that frontier. “—love that, its so true! especially for me! haha.

oh boy this just made my day

Oh, wait… I don’t have any cool friends, they’re all Trekkers….

Anthony, great story! Cool photo!

As a scanning electron microscopist myself, I can particularly appreciate the difficulty of creating such a nano-scale model. Ion beam lithography has made great strides in the years since that model was made, and I bet that someone could make an even better one today.

It was Star Trek, and particularly Spock (and to a somewhat lesser degree Barney from Mission Impossible) that inspired me to become a scientist. I feel very fortunate to be able to explore the micro-cosmos on a daily basis, and to get paid for it. Life is good!

Ex Microcosmos Scientia

#30 “trekkers” [as you say] ARE cool!

…….they just aren’t considered cool by people who arent trekkies/trekkers


Cool. New Micro Machines that no one can see.

31: Built any Nanites yet? :-)

I have 20 of these micro-ships I am willing to sell for a measly $100 each. Every one comes mounted on a pinhead with a photo of what it looks like, all you need is an electron microscope to see it the actual ship.

Who wants to order?

#19 – gold!

Also, what the heck is coming out of the bottom of the hull?!

Looks nice, but…did she have a fender bender?

Someone’s Enterprise-D model obviously spent too much time in the pool :-)


#10 :: More like a grain of a grain of sugar. ;3

I have a major problem with the nacelles….

; )

Hey, it’s made to do battle with nanites…

#21: LOL, I’m glad someone understood my reference!

The saucer was actually in good shape (probably). Let me explain

The problem with nano-structures is imaging. The most common imaging technique is Atomic Force Microscopy (or AFM). AFM is basically dragging a really small needle across the surface to be imaged.

The problem with this is that it sometimes damages what it is imaging. Hence, the deformed saucer section.

Nope, sorry – this isn’t an AFM image, nor was this ever AFM inspected.

AFM is a surface profiler, it cannot perform ‘3D’ imaging. This is a SEM shot. You can tell because it’s tilted and you can see under the structure, all in focus because only SEM can offer that kind of ‘depth of focus’. (By the say, SEM stands for Scanning Electron Microscopy).

The saucer warping occurred during the structure growth. The dent is just above the pillar where the existing material acted as a support for the new growth. The edges of the saucer were gradually grown over time, extending out from the middle. Note that the bottom of the saucer is tapered upward.

Sorry, I do this stuff for a living.