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Novel technique opens path to low-cost 3D nanomanufacturing

Posted: 29 Dec 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Purdue University? laser shock imprinting? plasmonic? 3D nanoshape?

A team of researchers has developed an innovative method that allows the creation of large-area patterns of 3D nanoshapes from metal sheets, representing a potential, low-cost manufacturing system to mass produce innovations such as "plasmonic metamaterials" for advanced technologies.

The metamaterials have engineered surfaces that contain features, patterns or elements on the scale of nanometres that enable unprecedented control of light and could bring innovations such as high-speed electronics, advanced sensors and solar cells.

The novel method, called laser shock imprinting, creates shapes out of the crystalline forms of metals, potentially giving them ideal mechanical and optical properties using a bench-top system capable of mass producing the shapes inexpensively.

The paper is authored by researchers from Purdue University, Harvard University, Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies, and the University of California, San Diego. The research is led by Gary Cheng, an associate professor of industrial engineering at Purdue.

The shapes, which include nanopyramids, gears, bars, grooves and a fishnet pattern, are too small to be seen without specialised imaging instruments and are thousands of times thinner than the width of a human hair. The researchers used their technique to stamp nanoshapes out of titanium, aluminum, copper, gold and silver.

A key benefit of the shock-induced forming is sharply defined corners and vertical features, or high-fidelity structures.

"These nanoshapes also have extremely smooth surfaces, which is potentially very advantageous for commercial applications," Cheng said. "Traditionally it has been really difficult to deform a crystalline material into a nanomold much smaller than the grain size of starting materials, and due to the size effects the materials are super-strong when grain size has to be reduced to very small sizes. Therefore, it is very challenging to generate metal flow into nanomolds with high-fidelity 3D shaping."

The researchers also created hybrid structures that combine metal with graphene, an ultrathin sheet of carbon promising for various technologies. Such a hybrid material could enhance the plasmonic effect and bring "metamaterial perfect absorbers," or MPAs, which have potential applications in optoelectronics and wireless communications.

"We can generate nanopatterns on metal-graphene hybrid materials, which opens new ways to pattern 2D crystals," Cheng said. The technique works by using a pulsed laser to generate "high strain rate" imprinting of metals into the nanomold.

"We start with a metal thin film, and we can deform it into 3D nanoshapes patterned over large areas," Cheng said. "What is more interesting is that the resulting 3D nanostructures are still crystalline after the imprinting process, which provides good electromagnetic and optical properties."

Whereas other researchers have created nanoshapes out of relatively soft or amorphous materials, the research shows how to create nanoshapes out of hard and crystalline metals.

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