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Improving Nanoscale Manufacturing

Anming Hu, assistant professor of mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineeringNanotechnology is poised to revolutionize modern science. With possible applications in medicine, computing, renewable energy and a number of other fields, nanotechnology development will impact daily life like few other areas of study. Before it can do that, however, nanotechnology must be manufactured.

Nanoscale manufacturing, or nanomanufacturing is the production of nanoscaled materials, which may then be used in the creation of nanotechnology. Unfortunately, current methods for nanomanufacturing such as electron beam lithography (or focused ion beam lithography ) can be cumbersome, requiring a number of special considerations.

Anming Hu, assistant professor of mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering, wants to find an easier way. Hu’s Joint Directed Research Development (JDRD) project is focused on a new, less restrictive methodology for creating nanomaterials.

“We are trying to use laser interference lithography to do nanoscale manufacturing faster and also cheaper,” said Hu. “What we propose is that the laser interference lithography can be done in air. We don’t need a vacuum or cryogenic temperatures, like there are required in electron beam lithography. We can use ambient conditions.”

Anming Hu's laser arrayHu’s system uses a femtosecond laser that pulses at an extremely fast rate, each taking only 400 femtoseconds. His team is attempting to replace an electron beam with two incredibly fast interferenced laser beams and create similar processing resolution.

“Our challenge is, because it is an ultrafast laser, we have to make our laser beam overlap in both time and space,” said Hu. The array with which Hu’s team is working must be calibrated with incredible precision to achieve this, a process taking a great deal of time. They have, however, already achieved some success in this area and hope to submit a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in conjunction with Hu’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) partner, Dr. Benjamin Lawrie.

Hu’s research will have far reaching effects in the field of nanomanufacturing. Discovering a method that allows manufacturers to forego generating a vacuum, having perfectly sterile work environments and creating cryogenic temperatures will reduce the complexity and difficulty of the process.

Hu and Lawrie are making the most of their JDRD collaboration. In addition to their pending NSF proposal, they have already submitted an article on laser direct written sensors to American Chemistry Society Applied Materials and Interfaces which has been accepted for publication.

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