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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A new way to build nanostructures

MIT News
July 6, 2011

The making of three-dimensional nanostructured materials — ones that have distinctive shapes and structures at scales of a few billionths of a meter — has become a fertile area of research, producing materials that are useful for electronics, photonics, phononics and biomedical devices. But the methods of making such materials have been limited in the 3-D complexity they can produce. Now, an MIT team has found a way to produce more complicated structures by using a blend of current "top-down" and "bottom-up" approaches.

The work is described in a paper published in June in the journal Nano Letters, co-authored by postdoc Chih-Hao Chang; George Barbastathis, the Singapore Research Professor of Optics and Professor of Mechanical Engineering; and six MIT graduate students.

One approach to making three-dimensional nanostructures — a top-down approach — is called phase-shift lithography, in which a two-dimensional mask shapes the intensity of light shining onto a layer of photoresist material (in the same way a photographic negative controls the amount of light reaching different areas of a print). The photoresist is altered only in the areas reached by the light. However, this approach requires very precisely manufactured phase masks, which are expensive and time-consuming to make.
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