The first practical fountain pen was invented in 1884 by Lewis Waterman. Although pens with self-contained ink reservoirs had existed for more than a hundred years before his invention, they suffered from ink leaks and other troubles. Waterman solved these problems by inventing the capillary feed which produced even ink flow. Now fountain pen history is repeating itself in the tiny world of nanoscale writing.
Researchers at Northwestern University have demonstrated writing at the sub-100 nanometer molecular scale in fountain-pen fashion. They developed a novel atomic force microscope (AFM) probe chip with an integrated microfluidic system for capillary feeding of molecular ink. Their results are published online by Small, a new journal dedicated to breakthroughs in nanoscience and engineering (http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/smll.200500027).
Dip-pen nanolithography (DPN) has been well-known for its capability of high-resolution direct writing as a bottom-up nanofabrication technique. The DPN technique exploits controlled deposition of molecules from an AFM tip to a surface. However, the need of replenishing ink whenever exhausted has been a limiting feature. Various attempts have been reported to overcome such a drawback, but none of them reached molecular patterns with features smaller than 100 nanometers.
Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
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