New Method to Pattern Nanomaterials Expands Horizons in Manufacturing

Published Date : Aug 01, 2017

Nanomaterials are emerging as a promising avenue for next-generation electronics devices, but ways to patterns them still elude scientists. A new patterning method recently discovered by a team of researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory is poised to help manufacturers fabricate them into a wide range of useful consumer devices including LED displays, cellular phones, transistors, and solar cells. The details of the method was published in Science Magazine on July 28, 2017.

The precise patterning is expected to open up new avenues for moving nanomaterials from proof-of-concept experiments to real-life applications of the technology, contends one of the researchers.

Currently Available Fabrication Techniques Based on Laying Down Stencils

The currently available methods of fabricating computing devices relies on the use of transistor, and tens of thousands of them are made at a time by a patterning method called ‘photolithography’. This method fundamentally involves carving a stencil out of a layer of organic polymer and using UV rays to endow patterns. The current method originally discovered for pattering silicon is, however, fraught with limitations, since the method is useful for only a few materials.

New Method for Patterning Common Materials Expands Electronics Manufacturing

The newly discovered method, which the scientists call DOLFIN, overcomes the limitation arising due to laying down stencils. The team of investigators designed chemical coatings for individual nanoparticles, which can react with light. The light when shone into a patterned mask can transfer the design directly into the layer of nanoparticles below, thus helping the fabrication of numerous everyday-useful devices.

The quality of patterns formed was similar to those formed using currently available advanced methods. Furthermore, the technique is viable for fabricating a variety of commonly used materials in electronics manufacturing such as semiconductors, magnetic materials, and metals.