Scanning probe lithographies typically rely on the use of cantilevers as the printing device components. Cantilevers are microscopic levers with tips, typically used to deposit materials on surfaces in a printing experiment. They are fragile, expensive, cumbersome and difficult to implement in an array-based experiment.
"Scaling cantilever-based architectures at low cost is not trivial and often leads to devices that are difficult to operate and limited with respect to the scope of application," Mirkin said.
Hard-tip, soft-spring lithography uses a soft polymer backing that supports sharp silicon tips as its "print head." The spring polymer backing allows all of the tips to come in contact with the surface in a uniform manner and eliminates the need to use cantilevers. Essentially, hard tips are floating on soft polymeric springs, allowing either materials or energy to be delivered to a surface.
HSL offers a method that quickly and inexpensively produces patterns of high quality and with high resolution and density. The prototype arrays containing 4,750 tips can be fabricated for the cost of a single cantilever-based tip and made in mass, Mirkin said.
Mirkin and his team demonstrated an array of 4,750 ultra-sharp silicon tips aligned over an area of one square centimeter, with larger arrays possible. Patterns of features with sub-50-nanometer resolution can be made with feature size controlled by tip contact time with the substrate.
They produced patterns "writing" with molecules and showed that as the tips push against the substrate the flexible backing compresses, indicating the tips are in contact with the surface and writing is occurring. (The silicon tips do not deform under pressure.)
"Eventually we s
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