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Berkeley Lab Researchers Ink Nanostructures with Tiny ‘Soldering Iron’

Thu, 11/10/2011 - 7:00am
Berkeley Laboratories

 

nanolithography
Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have shed light on the role of temperature in controlling a fabrication technique for drawing chemical patterns as small as 20 nanometers.  This technique could provide an inexpensive, fast route to growing and patterning a wide variety of materials on surfaces to build electrical circuits and chemical sensors, or study how pharmaceuticals bind to proteins and viruses.

 

One way of directly writing nanoscale structures onto a substrate is to use an atomic force microscope (AFM) tip as a pen to deposit ink molecules through molecular diffusion onto the surface.  Unlike conventional nanofabrication techniques that are expensive, require specialized environments and usually work with only a few materials, this technique, called dip-pen nanolithography, can be used in almost any environment to write many different chemical compounds.  A cousin of this technique — called thermal dip-pen nanolithography — extends this technique to solid materials by turning an AFM tip into a tiny soldering iron.

Dip-pen nanolithography can be used to pattern features as small as 20 nanometers, more than forty thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair.  What’s more, the writing tip also performs as a surface profiler, allowing a freshly-writ surface to be imaged with nanoscale precision immediately after patterning.

“Tip-based manufacturing holds real promise for precise fabrication of nanoscale devices,” says Jim DeYoreo, interim director of Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, a DOE nanoscience research center.  “However, a robust technology requires a scientific foundation built on an understanding of material transfer during this process.  Our study is the first to provide this fundamental understanding of thermal dip-pen nanolithography.”

In this study, DeYoreo and coworkers systematically investigated the effect of temperature on feature size. Using their results, the team developed a new model to deconstruct how ink molecules travel from the writing tip to the substrate, assemble into an ordered layer and grow into a nanoscale feature.

“By carefully considering the role of temperature in thermal dip-pen nanolithography, we may be able to design and fabricate nanoscale patterns of materials ranging from small molecules to polymers with better control over feature sizes and shapes on a variety of substrates,” says Sungwook Chung, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, and Foundry user working with DeYoreo.  “This technique helps overcome fundamental length scale limitations without the need for complex growth methods.”

To see the rest of the article, CLICK HERE.

For more information about the Molecular Foundry visit the Website athttp://foundry.lbl.gov/

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