Printing Electronics

July 23rd, 2013 by

Researchers at a university in Illinois have developed a method to construct high quality nano materials and electronic devices using an instrument slightly larger than a printer and in a matter of hours. Currently, most nanofabrication is done in foundries. The new tool is poised to prototype a diverse range of functional structures, from making electronic circuits to gene chips and protein arrays, and building patterns that control how stem cells differentiate. Using a digital micromirror device, a single beam of light is broken up into thousands of individual beams, each channeled down the back of different pyramidal pens within the array and through the apertures at the tip of each pen. This nanofabrication tool allows one to rapidly process substrates coated with resists and generate structures that span the macro-, micro- and nanoscales, all in one experiment. Key advances made by the researchers include developing the hardware, writing the software to coordinate the direction of light onto the pen array, and constructing a system to make all of the pieces of this instrument work together in synchrony. This approach allows each pen to write a unique pattern and for these patterns to be stitched together into functional devices. Since the materials used to make the desktop nanofabrication tool are easily accessible, commercialization may be as little as two years