This approach combines top-down advanced ink-jet printing technology with a bottom-up approach that involves self-assembling block copolymers, a type of material that can spontaneously form ultrafine structures.
This atomic force microscope image shows directed self-assembly of a printed line of block copolymer on a template prepared by photolithography. The microscope’s software colored and scaled the image. The density of patterns in the template (bounded by the thin lines) is two times that of the self-assembled structures (the ribbons).
Courtesy of Serdar Onses/University of Illinois-Urbana
The team, consisting of nine researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Chicago and Hanyang University in Korea, was able to increase the resolution of their intricate structure fabrication from approximately 200 nanometers to approximately 15 nanometers. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, the width of a double-stranded DNA molecule.
The ability to fabricate nanostructures out of polymers, DNA, proteins and other “soft” materials has the potential to enable new classes of electronics, diagnostic devices and chemical sensors. The challenge is that many of these materials are fundamentally incompatible with the sorts of lithographic techniques that are traditionally used in the integrated circuit industry.
Recently developed ultrahigh resolution ink-jet printing techniques have some potential, with demonstrated resolution down to 100-200 nanometers, but there are significant challenges in achieving true nanoscale dimension. “Our work demonstrates that processes of polymer self-assembly can provide a way around this limitation,” said John Rogers, the Swanlund Chair Professor in Materials Science and Engineering at Illinois.
Rogers and his associates report their findings in the September issue of Nature Nanotechnology. Combining jet printing with self-assembling block copolymers enabled the engineers to attain the much higher resolution, as suggested by lead author Serdar Onses, a postdoctoral scientist at Illinois. Onses earned his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin under Paul Nealey, now the Brady W. Dougan Professor in Molecular Engineering at UChicago and a co-author of the Nature Nanotechnology paper. “This concept turned out to be really useful,” Rogers said.
Engineers use self-assembling materials to augment traditional photolithographic processes that generate patterns for many technological applications. They first create either a topographical or chemical pattern using traditional processes. For the Nature Nanotechnology paper, this was done at imec in Belgium, an independent nanoelectronics research center. Nealey’s laboratory pioneered this process of directed self-assembly of block copolymers using chemical nanopatterns.
Nearing the limits
The resolution of the chemical pattern nears the current limit of traditional photolithography, noted Lance Williamson, a graduate student in molecular engineering at UChicago and co-author of the Nature Nanotechnology article. “Imec has the capability to perform the photolithography at this scale over large areas with high precision,” Williamson said.
Back at the University of Illinois, engineers place a block copolymer atop this pattern. The block copolymer self-organizes, directed by the underlying template to form patterns that are at much higher resolution than the template itself.
Previous work has focused on the deposition and assembly of uniform films on each wafer or substrate, resulting in patterns with essentially only one characteristic feature size and spacing between features. But practical applications may need block copolymers of multiple dimensions patterned or spatially placed over a wafer.
“This invention, to use inkjet printing to deposit different block copolymer films with high spatial resolution over the substrate, is highly enabling in terms of device design and manufacturing in that you can realize different dimension structures all in one layer,” Nealey said. “Moreover, the different dimension patterns may actually be directed to assemble with either the same or different templates in different regions.”
Benefits of e-jet printing
The advanced form of ink-jet printing the engineers use to locally deposit block copolymers is called electrohydrodynamic, or e-jet printing. It operates much like the ink-jet printers office workers use for printing on paper. “The idea is flow of materials from small openings, except e-jet is a special, high-resolution version of ink-jet printers that can print features down to several hundred nanometers,” Onses said. And because e-jet can naturally handle fluid inks, it is exceptionally well-suited for patterning solution suspensions of nanotubes, nanocrystals, nanowires and other types of nanomaterials.
“The most interesting aspect of this work is the ability to combine ‘top-down’ techniques of jet printing with ‘bottom-up’ processes of self-assembly, in a way that opens up new capabilities in lithography—applicable to soft and hard materials alike,” Rogers said.
“The opportunities are in forming patterned structures of nanomaterials to enable their integration into real devices. I am optimistic about the possibilities.”
Citation: “Hierarchical patterns of three-dimensional block-copolymer films formed by electrohydrodynamic jet printing and self-assembly,” by M. Serdar Onses, Chiho Song, Lance Williamson, Erick Sutanto, Placid M. Ferreira, Andrew G. Alleyne, Paul F. Nealey, Heejoon Ahn and John A. Rogers, Nature Nanotechnology, September 2013, pages 667-675. Published first as an advance online publication Aug. 25, 2013.
Funding: National Science Foundation and National Research Foundation of Korea
Steve Koppes | EurekAlert!
Epoxy compound gets a graphene bump
14.11.2018 | Rice University
Automated adhesive film placement and stringer integration for aircraft manufacture
15.11.2018 | Fraunhofer IFAM
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
15.11.2018 | Earth Sciences
15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
15.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy