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Rapid prototyping of patterned functional nanostructures


Living systems exhibit form and function on multiple length scales and at multiple locations. In order to mimic such natural structures, it is necessary to develop efficient strategies for assembling hierarchical materials. Conventional photolithography, although ubiquitous in the fabrication of microelectronics and microelectromechanical systems, is impractical for defining feature sizes below 0.1 micrometres and poorly suited to pattern chemical functionality. Recently, so-called ‘soft’ lithographic approaches1 have been combined with surfactant2,3 and particulate4 templating procedures to create materials with multiple levels of structural order. But the materials thus formed have been limited primarily to oxides with no specific functionality, and the associated processing times have ranged from hours to days. Here, using a self-assembling ‘ink’, we combine silica–surfactant self-assembly with three rapid printing procedures—pen lithography, ink-jet printing, and dip-coating of patterned self-assembled monolayers—to form functional, hierarchically organized structures in seconds. The rapid-prototyping procedures we describe are simple, employ readily available equipment, and provide a link between computer-aided design and self-assembled nanostructures. We expect that the ability to form arbitrary functional designs on arbitrary surfaces will be of practical importance for directly writing sensor arrays and fluidic or photonic systems.

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Figure 1: Scheme 1: micropen lithography (MPL) of a surfactant-templated mesophase.
Figure 2: Meandering patterned mesophase created by MPL.
Figure 3: Patterned dot arrays created by ink-jet printing, IJP.
Figure 4: Scheme 2: patterned functional mesostructure formed by selective de-wetting.
Figure 5: Patterned pH-sensitive fluidic system.

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We thank R. Assink for performing NMR experiments, P. Yang for technical assistance with micropen lithography, and K. Burns for technical illustrations. TEM investigations were performed in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico. Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed-Martin Company, for the US Department of Energy (DOE). This work was supported by the US DOE Basic Energy Sciences Program, the Sandia National Laboratories Laboratory-Directed Research and Development Program, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Bio-Weapons Defense Program, and the US Department of Defense Office of Naval Research.

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Correspondence to C. Jeffrey Brinker.

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Fan, H., Lu, Y., Stump, A. et al. Rapid prototyping of patterned functional nanostructures. Nature 405, 56–60 (2000).

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