Polymeric lithography editor: Editing lithographic errors with nanoporous polymeric probes

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Science Advances  09 Jun 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 6, e1602071
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602071

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A new lithographic editing system with an ability to erase and rectify errors in microscale with real-time optical feedback is demonstrated. The erasing probe is a conically shaped hydrogel (tip size, ca. 500 nm) template-synthesized from track-etched conical glass wafers. The “nanosponge” hydrogel probe “erases” patterns by hydrating and absorbing molecules into a porous hydrogel matrix via diffusion analogous to a wet sponge. The presence of an interfacial liquid water layer between the hydrogel tip and the substrate during erasing enables frictionless, uninterrupted translation of the eraser on the substrate. The erasing capacity of the hydrogel is extremely high because of the large free volume of the hydrogel matrix. The fast frictionless translocation and interfacial hydration resulted in an extremely high erasing rate (~785 μm2/s), which is two to three orders of magnitude higher in comparison with the atomic force microscopy–based erasing (~0.1 μm2/s) experiments. The high precision and accuracy of the polymeric lithography editor (PLE) system stemmed from coupling piezoelectric actuators to an inverted optical microscope. Subsequently after erasing the patterns using agarose erasers, a polydimethylsiloxane probe fabricated from the same conical track-etched template was used to precisely redeposit molecules of interest at the erased spots. PLE also provides a continuous optical feedback throughout the entire molecular editing process—writing, erasing, and rewriting. To demonstrate its potential in device fabrication, we used PLE to electrochemically erase metallic copper thin film, forming an interdigitated array of microelectrodes for the fabrication of a functional microphotodetector device. High-throughput dot and line erasing, writing with the conical “wet nanosponge,” and continuous optical feedback make PLE complementary to the existing catalog of nanolithographic/microlithographic and three-dimensional printing techniques. This new PLE technique will potentially open up many new and exciting avenues in lithography, which remain unexplored due to the inherent limitations in error rectification capabilities of the existing lithographic techniques.


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