Northwestern University researchers have developed a new technique for rapidly prototyping nanoscale devices and structures that is so inexpensive the "print head" can be thrown away when done.
Hard-tip, soft-spring lithography (HSL) rolls into one method the best of scanning-probe lithography -- high resolution -- and the best of polymer pen lithography -- low cost and easy implementation.
HSL could be used in the areas of electronics (electronic circuits), medical diagnostics (gene chips and arrays of biomolecules) and pharmaceuticals (arrays for screening drug candidates), among others.
To demonstrate the method's capabilities, the researchers duplicated the pyramid on the U.S. one-dollar bill and the surrounding words approximately 19,000 times at 855 million dots per square inch. Each image consists of 6,982 dots. (They reproduced a bitmap representation of the pyramid, including the "Eye of Providence.") This exercise highlights the sub-50-nanometer resolution and the scalability of the method.
The results will be published Jan. 27 by the journal Nature.
"Hard-tip, soft-spring lithography is to scanning-probe lithography what the disposable razor is to the razor industry," said Chad A. Mirkin, the paper's senior author. "This is a major step forward in the realization of desktop fabrication that will allow researchers in academia and industry to create and study nanostructure prototypes on the fly."
Mirkin is the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and professor of medicine, chemical and biological engineering, biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering and director of Northwestern's International Institute for Nanotechnology.
Micro- and nanolithographic techniques are used to create patterns and build surface architectures of materials on a small scale.
Scanning probe lithography, with its high resolution
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