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IISc scientists mix light to build nanostructures

Mixing light sheets and light-sensitive polymers can be used to build three dimensional nanostructures. This novel technique, a great improvement over the existing ones, can lead to a new array of devices in space science and consumer electronics. The research is carried out by the researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Rapid advancement in the field of nano engineering has given rise to futher innovations like nano-patterning i.e. periodic repetition of tiny structures in two or three dimensions over a large area. Scientists’ dream of 'Lab-on-a-chip' is no longer fiction. While the techniques for nano patterning are well known and widely explored, the cost of fabrication prevents their large scale production and commercialisation. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science have come up with a smart technology to overcome this bottleneck.

"The proposed technique is simple and can be miniaturized for challenging applications in space-science and medical health-care", said Professor Mondal, one of the lead inventors of the technique. “This technique is essentially a bench-top technique, cost-effective and hence affordable in every lab”.

Existing well known techniques for nano patterning like focused ion-beam and direct laser writing have several drawbacks: they are slow, cumbersome and expensive. Moreover, very low throughput of these techniques limit their use for mass scale production and are thus unsuitable for the market. With their proposed technique, the IISc researchers (Prof. Partha P. Mondal and his student, Kavya M) have addressed these limitations.

When multiple sheets of light are made to “mix” with each other, they give rise to alternate arrays of light and dark regions. If polymers sensitive to light --known as “photoresist”-- are exposed to such light and dark regions, they will give rise to nano patterns just after a single step of photochemical reaction known as 'developing'.

"Proposed technique belongs to a category of parallel techniques that has the advantage of single-shot illumination, large area patterning (due to large field-of-view of interfering light-sheets) and selective plane patterning in a 3D specimen (giving rise to the hope of compact 3D chips)", said Professor Partha P. Mondal, describing the advantage of the current technique.

“We plan to develop the technique further to demonstrate applications in advanced research fields such as, nano-fluidics, and nano-electronics. Effectively, this technique will accelerate the miniaturization of electronic/microfluidic devices with mass production capability. This will be a boost to space science, consumer electronics and rural health-care”, says Prof Partha P. Mondal on his future plans.

About the authors:

Partha P. Mandal is an Associate Professor with the Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics (IAP), Indian Institute of Science. Kavya Mohan is also in the same department.

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