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January 27th, 2011

A Shortcut to Designer Nanostructures

Abstract:
A new nanolithography method could bring down the costs of making experimental computer chips for electronics research and arrays of biomolecules for cell biology. The method makes it possible to deposit fine patterns of materials, or carve them away, using large arrays of silicon pens sitting on springs; it combines the ability to pattern arbitrary designs that have nanoscale features with the ability to work quickly and over relatively large areas.

For the past decade, Chad Mirkin, professor of chemistry at Northwestern University, has been working on ways to reduce the cost and time needed for nanoscale manufacturing. Mirkin invented dip-pen lithography in 1999; in 2008, he developed a more practical approach using polymer pens instead of microscope tips.

Now Mirkin has developed an array that works in a similar way but can create much smaller features. When pushed over a surface using a scanning-probe microscope, the new arrays—made of hard silicon tips attached to a springy polymer backing—can either deposit molecules to make nanostructures, or act like tiny electric chisels, carving material away. It's this combination of the hard, fine silicon tip with the give allowed by the underlying polymer layer that enables higher resolution. Mirkin calls the method "hard-tip, soft-spring lithography."

Source:
technologyreview.com

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