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New England Nano Event Highlights Emerging Technologies and Applications

Written by: 
Jeff Morse, PhD.

NIL Representation
The New England Nanomanufacturing Summit 2010 (NENS 2010), held at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, MA June 22-24, showcased groundbreaking research in nanotechnology with a focus towards manufacturing and commercialization topics. The event was organized by the National Nanomanufacturing Network, the NSF Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing (CHM) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the NSF Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) at Northeastern University, with partners University of Massachusetts Lowell and University of New Hampshire, and included relevant research in the Northeast region as well as the national and international levels. The second day of the NENS 2010 focused on emerging processes, tools, materials, and applications, providing presentations by leaders in the field from government, academic centers, and industry.

View program and presentations.  

JaeJong Lee from the Korean Institute of Machinery and Materials, Nanomechanical-Systems Division, described research using nanoimprint lithography (NIL) techniques for large area patterning and related applications. With the goal of driving down cost while improving throughput, NIL is emerging as a competitive approach for large area patterning of features down to 10 nm. Tom Russell from the CHM presented his group’s research on the use of block copolymer templating of nanoscopic patterns over large areas. Providing an overview of the nature of phase segregation in polymer block systems, Russell emphasized the benefits realized from chemical systems when letting nature take charge. For specific applications such as pattering of data storage media, the use of directed self assembly of 3 nm ordered domains having an areal density of >10 TB/in2 was described. Alex Liddle from the NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) presented a discussion of measurement challenges in nanomanufacturing, which includes both measurements for fundamental understanding of scientific research, as well as measurements for process and quality control in manufacturing environments. The latter represents a significant problem as techniques must scale for increased throughput and low cost.

David Arthur of SouthWest Nanotechnologies (SWeNT) described the scaled production of carbon nanotubes (CNT), as well as the formulation of CNT inks for a range of applications including solid-state lighting, displays, and battery technologies. In his presentation, Arthur explained how the future cost of CNT materials will be reduced through bulk production methods. In some cases, the quantities of certain types of CNT products, such as single walled (SWNT) nanotubes, will never be enough to drive the cost down beyond certain points. Joey Mead from the CHN at UMass Lowell described her group’s work in template directed assembly of polymer blends. She further described the approach of using pre-patterned features on a surface to generate nonuniform geometric patterns over multiple length scales in the polymers. Jin-Goo Park from the Micro Biochip Center in Materials Engineering at Hanyang University, Korea described his group’s work on the use of electroformed CoNi molds for nanoimprint lithography. Park discussed the approach of carefully controlling the CoNi composition in forming the mold resulting in stress free patterns over large areas.

The second half of the day focused on applications and tools for nanomanufacturing. The first session of the afternoon included talks on energy generation using nano-enabled technologies. Tom Van Vechten from Nanocomp Technologies described his company’s work on carbon nanotube based thermoelectric (TE) devices. Incorporating the CNT fabrics chemically modified to exhibit semiconductor-like behaviors, TE devices were demonstrated. While the conversion performance was not as good as conventional TE materials, the cost and weight benefit using CNTs was competitive for large area applications. Eitan Zeira from Konarka discussed the nano-morphology and charge photo-generation in organic bulk heterojunctions. Zeira further described nanocomposite solar cells based on fullerene and bridged dithiophenes using carbon and silicon bridging atoms. He described the scaled production of flexible solar photovoltaics via roll-to-roll platforms in regional manufacturing facilities. Loucas Tsakalakos from GE Global Research discussed concepts and manufacturing challenges for nano-photovoltaics. His presentation described the use of silicon nanowires integrated into photovoltaic devices and the resulting performance tradeoffs and challenges for manufacturing.

William Hurley from Chasm Technology described a novel printable CNT ink with applications for displays, photovoltaic’s, and battery technologies. The CNT ink exhibits improved conduction properties once printed in comparison to other CNT inks available. Vladimir Liberman from MIT Lincoln Laboratory discussed the use of large area nanoarrays as plasmonic structures for surface enhanced Raman applications as biosensors. Michael Walsh from LumArray described the Zone Plate Array Lithography approach spun out of Henry Smith’s group at MIT, and the subsequent tools that have been developed by LumArray. Zone plate lithography competes with E-beam approaches for pattern resolution, yet with significantly faster turnaround.

View program and presentations.  

Image credit: Natural Research Council Canada