AFM is the most commonly employed approach for top-down nanomanipulation research, explains Gorman. However, AFM suffers from a number limitations, as the nanoparticles stick together during manipulation and cannot be lifted from the substrate. This means that nanodevices constructed using AFM may be aesthetically pleasing and provide insights into what might be achievable but it cannot build practical nano machines.
The NIST system consists of four Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) devices positioned around a centrally located port on a chip into which the starting materials can be placed Each nanomanipulator is composed of positioning mechanism with an attached nanoprobe. By simultaneously controlling the position of each of these nanoprobes, the team can use them to cooperatively assemble a complex structure on a very small scale. "If successful, this project will result in an on-chip nanomanufacturing system that would be the first of its kind," says Gorman.
"Our micro-scale nanoassembly system is designed for real-time imaging of the nanomanipulation procedures using a scanning electron microscope," explains Gorman, "and multiple nanoprobes can be used to grasp nanostructures in a cooperative manner to enable complex assembly operations." Importantly, once the team has optimized their design they anticipate that nanoassembly systems could be made for around $400 per chip at present costs. This is thousands of times cheaper than macro-scale systems such as the AFM.
Gorman points out that it should be possible to have multiple nanoassemblers working simultaneously to manufacture next generation nanoelectronics. At the moment, his team is interested in developing the platform for scientists and engineers to make cutting edge discoveries in nanotechnology. "Very few effective tools exist for manipulation and assembly at the nano-scale, thereby limiting the growth of this critical field," he
|Contact: Jason Gorman|