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.
The fascination with two-dimensional (2D) materials that has started with graphene has spurred researchers to look for other 2D structures like for instance metal carbides and nitrides. One particularly interesting analogue to graphene would be 2D silicon - silicene - because it could be synthesized and processed using mature semiconductor techniques, and more easily integrated into existing electronics than graphene is currently. However, silicene does not seem to exist in nature nor is there any solid phase of silicon similar to graphite. Nevertheless, silicene has been predicted by theory as early as 1994. Researchers have now presented the first clear evidence for the synthesis and thus the existence of silicene - a two-dimensional material, with a honeycomb-like arrangement of silicon atoms.
If you are a blind computer user you have to rely on electronic Braille displays which typically allow you to see only one line at a time, no matter what you were doing. Such a Braille display is a tactile, electro-mechanical device for displaying Braille characters, consisting of a row of special 'soft' cells. A soft cell has 6 or 8 pins made of metal or nylon; pins are controlled electronically to move up and down to display characters as they appear on the computer display. A number of cells are placed next to each other to form a soft or refreshable braille line. As the little pins of each cell pop up and down they form a line of braille text that can be read by touch. Researchers have now have fabricated a Braille sheet display by integrating organic thin-film transistor drivers, organic static random-access memory, and carbon nanotube-based actuators.
Polyurethane (PU) foam is an extremely versatile material that commonly is used in bedding, upholstery and building insulation. However, PU foam is very flammable, often resulting in dripping of melted material that enhances flame spread through the formation of a pool fire under the burning object. Brominated flame retardant compounds (e.g. pentabromodiphenyl ether) have been used to reduce foam flammability but there is growing evidence that these chemicals are toxic to the environment and living organisms. Replacing brominated flame retardants in polymer formulations with safer and more environmentally-friendly alternatives has also sparked the interest of nanoscientists. One recent effort to create an environmentally-friendly flame retardant system involves the layer-by-layer assembly of thin films using materials obtained from completely renewable sources.
Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are well-ordered, lattice-like crystals. The nodes of the lattices are metals which are connected by organic molecules. Their controlled nanometer-sized pores provide MOFs with the potential to be used in next generation gas storage, gas separation and sensors. With their special structure and large surface area, MOFs open up new opportunities for alternative systems for gas and energy storage (e.g. carbon dioxide and hydrogen storage), in catalysis, chemical sensing, as nanoreactors, and in drug delivery, making them hugely interesting for both university research and industry. Researchers have now achieved the first microfluidic method for patterning MOF crystals. As such, high-throughput single crystal patterning is achieved with an unprecedented degree of flexibility.
Bridging the world of atoms and nanoparticles is a class of ultrasmall nanoclusters that contain less than 100 atoms and measure just one or two nanometers. Exploiting the unique properties - optical, magnetic, catalytic - of these nanoclusters in fields such as sensors, microelectronics, biotechnology, energy, and especially catalysis, requires atomically precise fabrication techniques. Making the synthesis of ultrasmall metal nanoclusters much easier than before, researchers have now demonstrated the development of a millifluidic chip as a novel approach for reproducible, high-throughput, and controlled synthesis. Preliminary findings demonstrate that a simple, easy to fabricate millifluidic reactors has the potential for controlled synthesis of nanomaterials.
Vanadium dioxide (VO2) is a leading candidate material for the fabrication of thermochromic films and coatings that will find special applications in a new generation of 'smart' glass that can change infrared transmittance by responding to environmental temperature, while maintaining visible transparency. This kind of smart windows may be especially useful for locations with hot summers and/or cold winters. In addition to its temperature-responsive thermochromism these films also exhibit UV-shielding properties. Previously, we reported on a novel technique to fabricate large-area VO2 films suitable for mass production. The same research team has now developed an alternative technique for the large-scale, mass production of thermochromatic VO2 films.
Fabrication conditions for nanoscale field-effect transistors (nano-FETs) have to meet very high requirements in order for these transistors to be used reliably as ultrasensitive and label-free molecular sensors in medical and environmental applications. Current fabrication routes for silicon-nanowire sensor construction involve high-cost, high-complexity - and often low-yield - top-down techniques such as e-beam lithography and focused ion beam. An alternative, and lower-cost, fabrication method is the use of pre-synthesized nanotubes or nanowires that are integrated into microstructures to form nano-FET sensors. Now, researchers have developed an automated vision-based nanomanipulation technique that is capable of precisely controlling the number of nanowires incorporated into each device.