Nanofabrication via directed assembly: a computational study of dynamics, design & limits
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Three early-stage techniques, for the fabrication of metallic nanostructures, creation of controlled topography in polymer films and precise deposition of nanowires are studied. Mathematical models and computational simulations clarify how interplay of multiple physical processes drives dynamics, provide a rational approach to selecting process parameters targeting specific structures efficiently and identify limits of throughput and resolution for each technique. A topographically patterned membrane resting on a film of nanoparticles suspended in a solvent promotes non-uniform evaporation, driving convection which accumulates particles in regions where the template is thin. Left behind is a deposit of particles the dimensions of which can be controlled through template thickness and topography as well as film thickness and concentration. Particle distribution is shown to be a competition between convection and diffusion represented by the Peclet number. Analytical models yield predictive expressions for bounds within which deposit dimensions and drying time lie. Ambient evaporation is shown to drive convection strong enough to accumulate particles 10 nm in diameter. Features up to 1 µm high with 10 nm residual layers can be deposited in < 3 minutes, making this a promising approach for continuous, single-step deposition of metallic nanostructures on flexible substrates. Selective exposure of a polystyrene film to UV radiation has been shown to result in non-uniform surface energy which drives convection on thermal annealing, forming topography. Film dynamics are shown to be a product of interplay between Marangoni convection, capillary dissipation and diffusion. At short times, secondary peaks form at double the pattern density of the mask, while at long times pattern periodicity follows the mask. Increased temperature, larger surface tension differentials and thick films result in faster dynamics and larger features. Electric fields in conjunction with fluid flow can be used to position semi-conducting nanowires or nanotubes at precise locations on a substrate. Nanowires are captured successfully if they arrive within a region next to the substrate where dielectrophoresis dominates hydrodynamics. Successful assembly is predicated upon a favorable balance of hydrodynamics, dielectrophoresis and diffusion, represented by two dimensionless groups. Nanowires down to 20 nm in length can be assembled successfully.