Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Lithography


Stimuli-responsive hydrogels exhibiting physical or chemical changes in response to environmental conditions have attracted growing attention for the past few decades. Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm), a temperature responsive hydrogel, has been extensively studied in various fields of science and engineering. However, manufacturing of PNIPAAm has been heavily relying on conventional methods such as molding and lithography techniques that are inherently limited to a two-dimensional (2D) space. Here we report the three-dimensional (3D) printing of PNIPAAm using a high-resolution digital additive manufacturing technique, projection micro-stereolithography (PμSL). Control of the temperature dependent deformation of 3D printed PNIPAAm is achieved by controlling manufacturing process parameters as well as polymer resin composition. Also demonstrated is a sequential deformation of a 3D printed PNIPAAm structure by selective incorporation of ionic monomer that shifts the swelling transition temperature of PNIPAAm. This fast, high resolution, and scalable 3D printing method for stimuli-responsive hydrogels may enable many new applications in diverse areas, including flexible sensors and actuators, bio-medical devices, and tissue engineering.

Concepts: Inkjet printer, Lithography, 3D printing, Rapid manufacturing, Additive manufacturing


Conventional three-dimensional (3D) printing techniques cannot produce structures of the size at which individual cells interact.

Concepts: Cell biology, Printing, Paper, Lithography, Printmaking, Old master print


The highest possible resolution for printed colour images is determined by the diffraction limit of visible light. To achieve this limit, individual colour elements (or pixels) with a pitch of 250 nm are required, translating into printed images at a resolution of ∼100,000 dots per inch (d.p.i.). However, methods for dispensing multiple colourants or fabricating structural colour through plasmonic structures have insufficient resolution and limited scalability. Here, we present a non-colourant method that achieves bright-field colour prints with resolutions up to the optical diffraction limit. Colour information is encoded in the dimensional parameters of metal nanostructures, so that tuning their plasmon resonance determines the colours of the individual pixels. Our colour-mapping strategy produces images with both sharp colour changes and fine tonal variations, is amenable to large-volume colour printing via nanoimprint lithography, and could be useful in making microimages for security, steganography, nanoscale optical filters and high-density spectrally encoded optical data storage.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Color, Plasmon, Printing, Lithography


One of the major challenges to the widespread adoption of plasmonic and nano-optical devices in real-life applications is the difficulty to mass-fabricate nano-optical antennas in parallel and reproducible fashion, and the capability to precisely place nanoantennas into devices with nanometer-scale precision. In this study, we present a solution to this challenge using the state-of-the-art ultraviolet nanoimprint lithography (UV-NIL) to fabricate functional optical transformers onto the core of an optical fiber in a single step, mimicking the ‘campanile’ near-field probes. Imprinted probes were fabricated using a custom-built imprinter tool with co-axial alignment capability with sub <100 nm position accuracy, followed by a metallization step. Scanning electron micrographs confirm high imprint fidelity and precision with a thin residual layer to facilitate efficient optical coupling between the fiber and the imprinted optical transformer. The imprinted optical transformer probe was used in an actual NSOM measurement performing hyperspectral photoluminescence mapping of standard fluorescent beads. The calibration scans confirmed that imprinted probes enable sub-diffraction limited imaging with a spatial resolution consistent with the gap size. This novel nano-fabrication approach promises a low-cost, high-throughput, and reproducible manufacturing of advanced nano-optical devices.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Optics, Optical fiber, Scanning electron microscope, Lithography, Nanoimprint lithography, Micrograph, Imprint


Since its invention in ancient times, relief printing, commonly called flexography, has been used to mass-produce artifacts ranging from decorative graphics to printed media. Now, higher-resolution flexography is essential to manufacturing low-cost, large-area printed electronics. However, because of contact-mediated liquid instabilities and spreading, the resolution of flexographic printing using elastomeric stamps is limited to tens of micrometers. We introduce engineered nanoporous microstructures, comprising polymer-coated aligned carbon nanotubes (CNTs), as a next-generation stamp material. We design and engineer the highly porous microstructures to be wetted by colloidal inks and to transfer a thin layer to a target substrate upon brief contact. We demonstrate printing of diverse micrometer-scale patterns of a variety of functional nanoparticle inks, including Ag, ZnO, WO3, and CdSe/ZnS, onto both rigid and compliant substrates. The printed patterns have highly uniform nanoscale thickness (5 to 50 nm) and match the stamp features with high fidelity (edge roughness, ~0.2 μm). We derive conditions for uniform printing based on nanoscale contact mechanics, characterize printed Ag lines and transparent conductors, and achieve continuous printing at a speed of 0.2 m/s. The latter represents a combination of resolution and throughput that far surpasses industrial printing technologies.

Concepts: Liquid, Materials science, Printing, Printing press, Lithography, Printmaking, Flexography, Relief printing


The development of a lithographic method that can rapidly define nanoscale features across centimetre-scale surfaces has been a long-standing goal for the nanotechnology community. If such a ‘desktop nanofab’ could be implemented in a low-cost format, it would bring the possibility of point-of-use nanofabrication for rapidly prototyping diverse functional structures. Here we report the development of a new tool that is capable of writing arbitrary patterns composed of diffraction-unlimited features over square centimetre areas that are in registry with existing patterns and nanostructures. Importantly, this instrument is based on components that are inexpensive compared with the combination of state-of-the-art nanofabrication tools that approach its capabilities. This tool can be used to prototype functional electronic devices in a mask-free fashion in addition to providing a unique platform for performing high-throughput nano- to macroscale photochemistry with relevance to biology and medicine.

Concepts: Greek loanwords, Nanotechnology, Nanomaterials, Prototype, Electronics, Area, Lithography, Nanolithography


A periodically aligned array of graphene nanorings (GRNRs) with a sub-15 nm linewidth at a pitch of 450 nm is fabricated with a large area, 9 cm(2) , through conventional nanoimprint lithography coupled with sophisticated metal deposition and plasma-etching processes. The existence of the single-layer GRNRs is verified by various techniques.

Concepts: Lithography, Nanoimprint lithography, Nanolithography


The capability to print three-dimensional (3D) cellular tubes is not only a logical first step towards successful organ printing but also a critical indicator of the feasibility of the envisioned organ printing technology. A platform-assisted 3D inkjet bioprinting system has been proposed to fabricate 3D complex constructs such as zigzag tubes. Fibroblast (3T3 cell)-based tubes with an overhang structure have been successfully fabricated using the proposed bioprinting system. The post-printing 3T3 cell viability of printed cellular tubes has been found above 82% (or 93% with the control effect considered) even after a 72-h incubation period using the identified printing conditions for good droplet formation, indicating the promising application of the proposed bioprinting system. Particularly, it is proved that the tubular overhang structure can be scaffold-free fabricated using inkjetting, and the maximum achievable height depends on the inclination angle of the overhang structure. As a proof-of-concept study, the resulting fabrication knowledge helps print tissue-engineered blood vessels with complex geometry. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2012; 109: 3152-3160. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Printing, Inkjet printer, Ink, Printing press, Lithography, Printmaking, Giclée, Old master print


Best of both worlds: Electrochemical X-ray photolithography combines the advantages of X-ray photolithography with the versatility of electrochemical processing. A proof-of-concept was carried out by electrochemical deposition of nickel under coherent X-ray illumination guided through a lithographic mask with a 4 micrometer pitch, resulting in formation of a nickel grating.

Concepts: Lithography


We demonstrate plasmonic color printing with subwavelength resolution using circular gap-plasmon resonators (GPRs) arranged in 340-nm-period arrays of square unit cells and fabricated with single-step electron-beam lithography. We develop a printing procedure resulting in correct single-pixel color reproduction, high color uniformity of colored areas and high reproduction fidelity. Furthermore, we demonstrate that, due to inherent stability of GPRs with respect to surfactants, the fabricated color print can be protected with a transparent dielectric overlay for ambient use without destroying its coloring. Using finite-element simulations, we uncover the physical mechanisms responsible for color printing with GPR arrays and suggest the appropriate design procedure minimizing the influence of the protection layer.

Concepts: Color, Printing, Printing press, Lithography, Printmaking, Subtractive color, Color printing, Computer to plate