This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project aims to develop processes for high-resolution patterning of advanced functional materials by a patented technique called molecular transfer lithography. The approach is to use water-dissolvable templates of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which are replicated from master surface topography, coated with functional materials that are transferred to a substrate as an active component of the resulting nanopatterned device. A range of functional materials are considered including dielectrics, metal oxides, conductive inks, phosphors, ceramics, optical polymers, nanoparticle-loaded composite materials, sol-gels, specialized resists, monolayer and semi-permeable polymer films, and luminescent materials. In combination with a platform equipment technology, these processes for functional material patterning comprise a comprehensive nanolithography solution that should enable nanomanufacturing of a broad range of novel devices.
The broader/commercial impacts of this project will be the potential to enable the nanopatterning of various functional materials that previously were difficult, not possible, or too costly to produce as high-resolution features for integration in advanced devices. Lithography technology, approximately a $10 billion market opportunity, creates dense circuitry and related nanostructures for high performance devices including semiconductors, displays, data storage, solid state lighting, solar cells, and biological sensors. In this project, the lithography procedure, which uses water-dissolvable templates and dry functional materials, enables an environmentally-friendly approach to high-resolution patterning, a foundational step in advanced manufacturing.
Nanostructures, which consist of very high resolution patterned surfaces of functional materials, often define the fundamental performance of advanced devices including semiconductors, displays, lighting components, and biotechnology devices. However, the manufacturing of such nanostructures is not only very difficult to perform because of their sub-microscopic nature but also expensive. Moreover, the functional materials that are available for design of advanced nanostructures s is limited thereby confining the extent of development and proliferation. To address these challenges in materials and manufacturing for advanced devices, particularly those which require large-area substrates greater than a square meter and feature sizes less than 100 nanometer, Transfer Devices developed a technology called molecular transfer lithography, which utilizes a water-soluble replicated from a master to produce nanostructures in high volume at low-costs. This project involved developing the techniques to form large-area masters that are visually near perfect, and then using the masters to achieve high quality nanostructures of materials that are of a functional nature, for example for the manipulation of light propagation. In addition to improving device performance and increasing materials selection, the technology was developed to automate the molecular transfer lithography process for high throughput applications. For the commercialization of the process, an industrial partnership was formed with an international electronics company to evaluate the technology for a high volume application in photonics involving the production of 50 nanometer material nanostructures in functional material layers of metal, dielectric, and semiconductor thin films on large-area substrates.