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Trap and zap: Harnessing the power of light to pattern surfaces on the nanoscale
Date:6/18/2008

onto the bead. This intense light exerts a physical force on the bead, trapping it in the beam and pushing it down toward the surface. The surface pushes back with a constant force, and the bead settles at a height that balances the opposing forces. The original laser is then pulsed at the bead, which focuses the light to "zap" the surface directly below. By moving the bead along a computer controlled trajectory while repeating the laser pulse, a desired pattern is created.

The technique offers particular advantages on curved or irregular surfaces because the bead tracks the surface, moving up when there is a bump and dropping when it moves over a dip. While other fabrication techniques, such as electron-beam lithography, can also be used to pattern uneven surfaces, they are extremely expensive and must be performed in a vibration- and oxygen-free environment. The new Princeton technique can be performed in a regular environment, making it accessible for use with biological materials and other systems that require the presence of oxygen.

"The technique provides a very interesting new capability to expand laser-assisted nanofabrication without involving moving mechanical parts and related hardware complications," said Costas Grigoropoulos, mechanical engineering professor at University of California-Berkeley. "I do expect that this novel technique will advance nanopatterning since it offers an elegant and highly effective means for parallel, optically driven and controlled nanofabrication."

In addition to burning away parts of a chip, Arnold and McLeod's method has the potential to deposit materials on surfaces, rather like gold-plating. This could provide a new means of creating three-dimensional structures, including miniscule guides that manipulate light and nanoscale electrical-mechanical devices. Such devices have many potential uses in ultrasmall sensor systems and low-power computer processors.

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Contact: Steven Schultz
sschultz@princeton.edu
609-258-3617
Princeton University, Engineering School
Source:Eurekalert  

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