Creating ultrasmall grooves on microchips -- a key part of many modern technologies -- is about to become as easy as making a sandwich, using a new process invented by Princeton engineers.
The simple, low-cost technique results in the self-formation of periodic lines, or gratings, separated by as few as 60 nanometers -- less than one ten-thousandth of a millimeter -- on microchips. Features of this size have many uses in optical, biological and electronic devices, including the alignment of liquid crystals in displays. The researchers will publish their findings Sept. 2 in the online version of Nature Nanotechnology.
Its like magic, said electrical engineer Stephen Chou, the Joseph C. Elgin Professor of Engineering. This is a fundamentally different way of making nanopatterns.
The process, called fracture-induced structuring, is as easy as one-two-three. First, a thin polymer film is painted onto a rigid plate, such as a silicon wafer. Then, a second plate is placed on top, creating a polymer sandwich that is heated to ensure adhesion. Finally, the two plates are pried apart. As the film fractures, it automatically breaks into two complementary sets of nanoscale gratings, one on each plate. The distance between the lines, called the period, is four times the film thickness.
The ease of creating these lines is in marked contrast to traditional fabrication methods, which typically use a beam of electrons, ions, or a mechanical tip to draw the lines into a surface. These methods are serial processes which are extremely slow and therefore only suitable for areas one square millimeter or smaller. Other techniques suitable for larger areas have difficulties achieving small grating periods or producing a high yield, or they require complex and expensive processes. Fracture-induced structuring is not only simple and fast, but it enables patterning over a much larger area. The researchers have already demonstrated the abi
|Contact: Hilary Parker|
Princeton University, Engineering School