In the nanometer range, complex, free-standing 3D architectures are very difficult to produce due to the required precision. A research team from the Christian Doppler Laboratory for the direct fabrication of 3D nanoprobes at Graz University of Technology has now further developed the technology in such a way that even complex three-dimensional nanostructures can be controlled and, above all, produced predictably. The scientists used Focused Electron Beam Induced Deposition (FEBID), which is already successfully used in the production of complex, but often flat nanostructures.
The individual layers, which are applied with the aid of FEBID-based 3D printing, adhere to almost any material and surface condition. On the one hand, this saves time. On the other hand, it also enables fabrication on uneven or rough surfaces. "This type of 3D nanoprinting opens up completely new playgrounds for science and industry," enthuses Harald Plank, head of the CD laboratory.
With the new technology, tasks can be solved in the future where alternative nanofabrication methods such as electron beam lithography have so far failed. In purely theoretical terms, Plank explains, the new method can even be used to produce nanostructures on a pencil tip.
The method will be used in cooperation with industrial partners GETec Microscopy (Vienna) and Anton Paar GmbH (Graz) in the field of atomic force microscopy for the production of measuring probes with peak radii of less than 10 nanometres.
The printing process takes place in the vacuum chamber of electron microscopes. The functional gases are introduced with a fine needle near the sample. The gaseous molecules then adsorb on the surface and are chemically split and immobilised by the focused electron beam - they therefore remain in place through interaction with the electron beam.