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New nanoscale process created by UCSB scientists will help computers run faster and more efficiently
Date:9/25/2008

to define the structures that are needed to prepare. "We design the molecule by understanding what needs to happen during the self-assembly process," said Hawker. "We need one block to be oil-like and one block to be water-like. So that's our first level of sophistication. We then design the molecular weight or the size of the molecule, to give us the desired feature size."

In the next step, the scientists design into the oil block the sticky groups that will form this attractive interaction, and by controlling the number of sticky groups, different levels of phase separation and different structures are created.

Polystyrene is the oil-like block, and one of the water-soluble blocks is polyethylene glycol. Polyethylene glycol is found in shampoos and many consumer products. It's a non-toxic, water-soluble, biocompatible polymer. By putting those together, the polyethylene glycol loves the water and the polystyrene loves the oil, and they hate each other. Polystyrene is found in disposable coffee cups, and according to the scientists is a fairly cheap commodity material that if designed in the right way, becomes a high value added application.

"The key to this work is that we put all the information into those molecules," said Hawker. "From a molecular level, we've built all the information into them that will allow them to undergo controlled phase separation. And the key is then just simply blending of two specifically designed materials, and then all we do is spin that down into a thin film on a silicon wafer. And then we heat it, and all the information that is pre-built into the molecule does its thing, and gives us the structure. And so that's why it is a really cheap technique. Because all you have to do is heat things up and you get the structures that you desire."

So the team has created a bottom-up approach to making these nanostructures, whereas the standard photolithographic technique, shining light onto the wafer
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Contact: Gail Gallessich
gail.g@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert

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