PerspectiveMaterials Science

Nanometer-Scale Printing

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Science  21 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6101, pp. 1459-1460
DOI: 10.1126/science.1228493

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Progress in nanotechnology relies on the ability to fabricate structures with precisely defined, nanoscale dimensions. Historically, this task has been accomplished with energetic beams of electrons, ions, or photons, using sophisticated tools whose origins lie in the semiconductor industry (1). Although well suited for manufacturing of integrated circuits and related devices, such techniques are often not the best choices for exploratory research because they require expensive equipment and specialized facilities. They also tend to work well only with narrow classes of materials, and they can be prohibitively slow for use over large areas. On page 1517 of this issue, Liao et al. (2) introduce a scheme that bypasses these limitations, in which rubber stamps affect nanoscale pattern transfer via molecular-scale fracture. Their technique represents a conceptual advance on a class of “soft lithographic” methods in which elastomers with fine features of relief on their surfaces deliver molecules (3, 4) or materials (5, 6) onto substrates of interest, in a process of contact printing. By providing advanced nanofabrication capabilities to researchers with limited access to complex apparatus, these simple methods have played a central role in the emergence of nanotechnology as a broad, vibrant field of study.