The nanowell discovery was made in the labs of Darrell Velegol and Seong Kim by Velegol’s graduate student, Neetu Chaturvedi, and Kim’s graduate student, Erik Hsiao. An article detailing their research, “Maskless Fabrication of Nanowells Using Chemically Reactive Colloids,” appeared in the online edition of the journal Nano Letters in January 2011.
In collaboration with Chaturvedi, Hsiao was working on a project to adhere polystyrene on a silicon wafer to create nanostructures with known dimensions. When Hsiao asked her to heat one of his samples, a miscommunication led her to heat the polystyrene and silicon wafer at low temperature in water in the autoclave normally used for biological samples rather than in the vacuum furnace. When they looked at the samples under the atomic force microscope (AFM), they noticed holes had formed beneath the polystyrene particles.
Further examination under the scanning electron microscope (SEM) showed them perfectly etched, pyramidal shaped holes in the substrate below the places where the amidine-functionalized polystyrene latex colloid particles had adhered to the silicon dioxide on the surface of the silicon wafer.
“We saw three holes in the sample at the first AFM imaging and didn’t know what it meant since we expected pancake-like polymer patches on the sample,” said Hsiao. They took the sample to their advisers, who were both surprised by the etched wafer. By going over the steps the students had taken, the researchers realized that the wells were produced when the water hydrolized the amidine group in the particle, and through a series of chemical reactions, created a hydroxide ion that etched the well into the silicon wafer. The holes were uniform and their size and depth were totally dependent on the size of the original polystyrene particle, although the orientation of the silicon crystal affected the shape of the wells. In one orientation (100), the wells were perfect four-sided inverted pyramids. In the other orientation (111), the wells were perfect hexagons. The four researchers called them nanowells, because the bottom dimension of the wells was only a couple of nanometers across. They soon realized that they had discovered a new maskless method for creating structures in silicon without the elaborate steps normally required in the clean room.
“We’re delivering hydroxide ions directly to where we want to etch,” Velegol explained. “It’s much safer and cheaper than electron beam and X-ray lithography. It’s so safe that you could practically eat these particles without any harm.”
“We think this is a quite general discovery,” Kim added. “It’s a way to deliver chemistry locally rather than in bulk. Many metals, ceramics, and other materials can be etched with this technique.”
Another potential benefit of the discovery is the ability to create patterns on curved surfaces, something that is difficult to do with conventional photolithography. Since the particles are suspended in water, they can adhere to the surface of any shape and space themselves evenly over the surface. The researchers are just beginning to come up with intriguing ideas for how to use the simple technique.
Many breakthroughs come from accidents, Velegol remarked, because once something is known, people work on it very rapidly until they have filled in all the pieces and there is less to discover. Accidents are out of the pattern. “It’s one of those situations like Pasteur said where chance favors the prepared mind. We would never even have thought to try this kind of chemistry. But Neetu had been working with these colloids for several years, and Erik had experience with the AFM, so they were well prepared to take advantage of the accident,” Velegol concluded.
Neetu Chaturvedi, Ph.D., recently defended her thesis and is now a researcher with DuPont. Erik Hsiao is a graduate student in chemical engineering. Darrell Velegol is professor of chemical engineering and Seong Kim is associate professor of chemical engineering. Both are faculty in the Materials Research Institute where the AFM and SEM work was performed. Contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant Nos. IDR-1014673 and CMMI-1000021).
The Materials Research Institute facilitates and coordinates Penn State’s interdisciplinary research activity in materials science and engineering. The Millennium Science Complex, the university’s largest facility for scientific research, is scheduled to open in July 2011. It will bring together the Materials Research Institute and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences in the integration of the physical and life sciences with engineering.
| Newswise Science News
Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer
20.10.2017 | Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
Metallic nanoparticles will help to determine the percentage of volatile compounds
20.10.2017 | Lomonosov Moscow State University
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research