Even when working in the cleanroom, a little dust is hard to avoid. This is a gallery of electron microscope pictures of dust specks I’ve encountered while making nanoscale devices in the UCSD Nano3 cleanrooms.
Dust is made of a variety of materials - dead skin cells, tiny bits of rock, fragments of carpet and clothing fibers, bits of paper, and more, and so dust specks come in a fantastic range of shapes, from fluffy to lumpy to crystalline. There are millions of dust particles in every breath of air you take, but mostly they’re unnoticeable. When we’re building devices with nanoscale features, however, around the size of features on computer chips, each speck of dust becomes comparatively blimp-like in size, and a single speck in the wrong place can ruin a device. So, this sort of nanoscale research is mostly done in cleanrooms, which have sophisticated filtering systems for removing dust, and full-body suits for everyone to wear, to prevent their skin and clothes from creating more dust. The cleanrooms work very well - most of the dust in this gallery probably appeared while transporting the samples from the cleanroom to the microscope.
In the background of some of these images, you can see some of the nanoscale structures I’ve been working on, lasers and other devices designed to someday help computers communicate more quickly using light.