Many nanotechnology projects require some form of nanopatterning technique for fabricating the devices, structures and surfaces required in fields ranging from electronics to photonics, security, biotechnology and medicine. Although they may not be visible to the naked eye, the nanometer-sized trenches, ridges, curves and grooves of these patterns and surfaces have a very visible impact. Researchers have developed a wide range of nanopatterning techniques, from top-down methods such as nanoimprint, e-beam or UV lithography to bottom-up techniques such as transfer nanolithography or nanopositioning on DNA or protein scaffolds. A novel technique uses a biofunctionalization approach based on resist-less electron-beam-induced deposition of carbon-containing nanofeatures, that has been developed into a universal biofunctionalization platform. This unique ability can be exploited for biological experiments, where cells respond to the nanoscale density of activating molecules such as antibodies.
Quantum rings show unique electronic, magnetic and optical properties. These unique properties make them attractive for various applications such as magnetic memory and systems for future quantum computers. To be used in practical applications, however,the quantum rings need to be fabricated in a controlled fashion. So far, the fabrication of laterally ordered quantum rings has not been reported. Now, though, researchers have demonstrated a fabrication method to obtain large scale ordered quantum rings. The quantum rings can be simply created by partially capping quantum dots. The key to fabricating ordered quantum rings is to create ordered quantum dots.
Physicists have uncovered a new method to manipulate light by borrowing an idea from the field of mathematical topology - topology is the mathematical field dealing with the properties of objects undergoing deformations, such as stretching and twisting. They created an artificial material, a "metamaterial", that can transform from regular dielectric - a substance like glass or plastic, which does not conduct electricity - to a medium that behaves like metal (reflects) in one direction and like dielectric (transmits) in the other. The research team expects optical topological transition to be the basis for a number of applications of both fundamental and technological importance through use of metamaterial-based control of light-matter interaction.
Thin films comprising carbon-based molecules and polymers have promising technological applications, such as biosensors, solar cells, electrically-active and light-emitting layers for displays, etc. Oftentimes, properties, such as luminescence and conductivity, depend on the orientation of crystals within the film. In organic thin films deposited on substrates, crystallization most often occurs isotropically in the plane of the film. Much research has thus focused on controlling the orientation of crystals in the plane of organic thin films. The use of temperature gradients and gravitational flow have been successfully employed to orient crystals unidirectionally. Two-dimensional control of the orientation of crystals spatially within organic thin films, however, remains exceedingly difficult to achieve. In new work, researchers have now demonstrated a method to guide crystallization along arbitrary patterns in the plane of organic thin films, using an organic semiconductor.
In the past couple of decades, thermoelectrics have been drawing more and more research interest due to the limited availability and the negative environmental impact of conventional energy strategies. In the past, as a measuring stick of the conversion efficiency, the term "dimensionless figure-of-merit," also referred to as ZT, has been widely used. A high ZT value usually promises high thermoelectric performance. Typically, good thermoelectric materials should simultaneously display low thermal conductivity and good electrical conductivity. Striving to enhance the performance of thermoelectric materials, researchers from Boston College and MIT have recently reported a novel materials design to achieve a 30 to 40% enhancement in the peak ZT value for n-type SiGe semiconducting alloys.
Counterfeiting of bank notes has always been a problem and central banks are leading a high-tech fight against sophisticated counterfeiting operations. For instance, when the European Central Bank designed its new banknotes, they included a variety of security features - holograms, foil stripes, special threads, microprinting, special inks and watermarks. Another high-tech approach are imprinting radio frequency identification (RFID) tags onto banknotes. While the integration of RFID technology on a banknote is technically possible, no banknotes in the world today employ such a technology. In recent work, researchers in Saudi Arabia have now fabricated the first-ever all-polymer, non-volatile, ferroelectric memory on banknotes.
On-wire lithography is a recently developed nanotechnology fabrication technique that allows researchers to synthesize billions of gapped nanowires with nanometer control of gap length, within a single experiment. These gaps can then be used to integrate different material segments into a single nanowire in order to fabricate functional devices. In recent work, researchers have reported a simple but efficient method to use OWL to mass produce nanotube-bridged nanowires, including carbon nanotube (CNT) channels with channel lengths as small as 5 nm. Since the CNT-bridged nanowires are comprised of CNT junctions with gold electrodes, each of the nanowires could for instance work as a CNT-based sensing device, ballistic transistors, or resonators.
The concept of a 'superlens' has attracted significant research interest in the imaging and photolithography fields since the concept was proposed back in 2000. A superlens would allow you to view objects much smaller than the roughly 200 nanometers that a regular optical lens with visible light would permit. Since superlenses have demonstrated the capability of subdiffraction-limit imaging, they have been envisioned as a promising technology for potential nanophotolithography. Unfortunately, all the experimentally demonstrated photoresist patterns exhibited very low profile depths, leading to poor contrasts, which are far below industrial requirements. Researchers have now experimentally demonstrated sub-50 nm resolution nanophotolithography by using a smooth silver superlens under 365 nm UV light in a conventional photolithography setup.