A team of scientists working at the US based Brookhaven National Laboratory claims to have developed a straight way for controlling the self-assembly of various molecular patterns in a single product leading to creation of nanoscale architectures. As per Aaron Stein, the Brookhaven Lab Physicist, “This is a significant conceptual leap in self-assembly. In the past, we were limited to a stage emergent pattern, but his technique breaks that barrier with relative ease. This is significant for basic research, certainly, but it could also change the way we design and manufacture electronics.”
Their complete research was based on block copolymers constituted by two different molecules chains that were linked with each other. In order to direct the self-assembly process, they created substrate templates with the help of electron beam lithography. They also added a set of block copolymers that was spin coated and baked after that. The final step was interaction between the template and block copolymers through thermal energy leading to creation of final configuration.
Prior to this, the team discovered that mixing of any two block copolymers from different lines permitted creation of multiple line and dot nanostructure. As Kevin Yager, the Brookhaven Physicist explains, “We had discovered an exciting phenomenon but couldn’t select which morphology would emerge.” However, the team also discovered that with a little tweaking of the substrate the emerging structure could be changed up to a certain degree. The adjustment of thickness and spacing of lithographic line patterns led to conversion of self assembling blocks into high-density arrays or lines of nano dots.
Stein further adds, “In essence, we’ve created ‘smart’ templates for nanomaterial self-assembly. How far can we push the technique remains to be seen, but it opens some very promising pathways.” The team is now aiming to enhance the sophistication level of structures with complicated materials. This will help them make a move in direction of device-like architectures. Yager further adds, “This technique fits quite easily into existing microchip fabrication workflows. It’s exciting to make a fundamental discovery that could one day find its way into our computers.”