The third factor accounts for the possible plasticizing of the polymer film while the reaction is taking place, which could affect the outcome of the reaction. The byproducts of a chemical reaction might slightly melt the polymer film in which the reaction is taking place, making the film more liquid than solid. When the film changes from a more solid to a more liquid state, the movement of the small catalyst inside the film also changes, since small molecules move much faster inside liquids than in solids.
Through designing and conducting simple experiments, Stein's group will test these hypotheses to determine how any or all of the three factors play a role in these chemical reactions, and to what extent. "After completion of these tests, we expect to have an idea of which one is relevant or if all are and then move onto the next step, which is to refine our model based on what we learned," Stein said.
After refining their model, Stein's research team will begin nanopatterning tests to observe the same reactions at the nanoscale. This portion of the research will take place at the University of Houston's Nanofabrication Facility, a state-of-the-art cleanroom research facility equipped with an extensive toolset for nano- and micro-device prototyping and characterization. Once this portion of the research is completed, Stein said she hopes her team can then link what they observed in their experiments back to the underlying physics of the polymers used in these reactions.
If all goes perfectly to plan, Stein said this model could be implemented into semiconductor manufacturing processes immediately, taking out much of the guesswork with semiconductor patterning at the nanoscale. However, she noted that there is much work to be done before this dream becomes a reality.
|Contact: Audrey Grayson|
University of Houston