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Chem Sci. 2013 May 1;4(5):2093-2099.

The role of viscosity on polymer ink transport in dip-pen nanolithography.

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Department of Chemistry and International Institute for Nanotechnology, Northwestern University, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 USA.


Understanding how ink transfers to a surface in dip-pen nanolithography (DPN) is crucial for designing new ink materials and developing the processes to pattern them. Herein, we investigate the transport of block copolymer inks with varying viscosities, from an atomic force microscope (AFM) tip to a substrate. The size of the patterned block copolymer features was determined to increase with dwell time and decrease with ink viscosity. A mass transfer model is proposed to describe this behaviour, which is fundamentally different from small molecule transport mechanisms due to entanglement of the polymeric chains. The fundamental understanding developed here provides mechanistic insight into the transport of large polymer molecules, and highlights the importance of ink viscosity in controlling the DPN process. Given the ubiquity of polymeric materials in semiconducting nanofabrication, organic electronics, and bioengineering applications, this study could provide an avenue for DPN to expand its role in these fields.

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