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Have a microscope? Check out the tiniest copy of the Book of Mormon

A group of BYU engineering students etched the entire text of the Book of Mormon onto a thin silicon disc

All 291,652 words contained in the Book of Mormon have been engraved onto a 4-inch diameter wafer — the name for a thin silicon disc in electronics speak — which can fit in the palm of a hand.

After that, BYU students from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department coated the whole thing in gold. Student Carson Zeller said that was to pay respect to the original gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

“These wafers are the literal text of the Book of Mormon,” Zeller said in a BYU YouTube video about the project. “You can read it just like you would read it out of your scriptures, as long as you have a microscope.”

According to a BYU news release, faculty mentor and professor Aaron Hawkins said people have done these etchings with the Bible, “but to our knowledge, no one has ever done it for The Book of Mormon. We realized it was up to BYU to put The Book of Mormon into silicon.”

Left to right, Carson Zeller, Aaron Hawkins and Ethan Belliston from BYU’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department show silicon discs or wafers on which they etched the words of the scriptures.
Carson Zeller, left, Aaron Hawkins and Ethan Belliston from BYU’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department show silicon discs or wafers on which they etched the words of the scriptures. | Nate Edwards, BYU Photo
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The students created the wafers using the same process they would when creating a computer microchip. Normally, hundreds of microchips would be created from a wafer. But in this case, the students etched hundreds of thousands of tiny blocks of scriptural text onto the wafer. 

They did it by feeding the scriptures’ text files into a program and then transferring the patterns using machines in the College of Engineering cleanroom. Each letter is about 25 by 35 micrometers. A micrometer is 0.001 millimeter or about 0.000039 inch. 

Student Ethan Belliston said the gold-plated letters will last millions of years in a compact, permanent record.

“Like Moroni himself, we etched into this wafer so it is physically engraved,” Belliston said. “Current electronic storage degrades over time, but this will last forever.”

Not stopping with the Book of Mormon, the team etched the Old Testament and New Testament onto wafers as well. The Old Testament wafer is 4,234,673 characters while the New Testament is 975,320 characters, said the news release.

BYU’s Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering is displaying the microscriptures outside the cleanroom on the fourth floor of the Clyde Building on campus.

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