Ferroelectric materials are attractive because they exhibit charge-generating piezoelectric responses an order of magnitude larger than those of materials such as aluminum nitride or zinc oxide. The polarization of the materials can be easily and rapidly changed, giving them potential application as random access memory elements.
But the materials can be difficult to fabricate, requiring temperatures greater than 600 degrees Celsius for crystallization. Chemical etching techniques produce grain sizes as large as the nanoscale features researchers would like to produce, while physical etching processes damage the structures and reduce their attractive properties. Until now, these challenges required that ferroelectric structures be grown on a single-crystal substrate compatible with high temperatures, then transferred to a flexible substrate for use in energy-harvesting.
The thermochemical nanolithography process, which was developed at Georgia Tech in 2007, addresses those challenges by using extremely localized heating to form structures only where the resistively-heated AFM tip contacts a precursor material. A computer controls the AFM writing, allowing the researchers to create patterns of crystallized material where desired. To create energy-harvesting structures, for example, lines corresponding to ferroelectric nanowires can be drawn along the direction in which strain would be applied.
"The heat from the AFM tip crystallizes the amorphous precursor to make the structure," Bassiri-Gharb explained. "The patterns are formed only where the crystallization occurs."
To begin the fabrication, the sol-gel precursor material is first applied to a substrate with a standard spin-coating method, then briefly heated to approximately 250 degrees Celsius to drive off the organic
|Contact: John Toon|
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News