Smallest polymer films might revolutionize microelectronic industry

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Washington, Feb 22 (ANI): Scientists have come up with a new way of producing the smallest and most perfect polymer films, which might revolutionize the microelectronic and storage industries.

The team that came up with the novel method included Tom Russell of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, along with researchers at the University of California (UC) Berkeley.

They have developed a faster, more efficient way to produce defect-free thin polymer films with the smallest domains ever achieved and ordered in the densest way possible for any given size-to dramatically improve storage density.

"I expect this new method of producing highly ordered macroscopic arrays of nanoscopic elements will revolutionize the microelectronic and storage industries and perhaps others, like photovoltaics," said Tom Russell of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The new technique for guiding self-assembly of block copolymers-two chemically dissimilar polymers joined together-should not only increase data storage volume, but will save months in manufacturing and open up vistas for entirely new applications, according to Russell and Ting Xu, leader of the UC Berkeley team.

"The density achievable with the technology they've developed could allow the contents of 250 DVDs to fit on a surface the size of a quarter, for example," said Xu.

For the base layer, Xu, Russell and colleagues used commercially available sapphire wafers, which start out flat.

Heating them from 1300 to 1500 degrees Celsius for 24 hours causes the surface to reorganize into a sawtooth topography with an inherent orientation.

So, when a thin copolymer film layer is applied, the underlying corrugations or crystal facets guide the film's self-assembly in a highly ordered way to form an ultradense hexagonal or honeycomb lattice.

"We can generate nearly perfect arrays over macroscopic surfaces where the density is over 15 times higher than anything achieved before," Russell said.

"We applied a simple concept to solve several problems at once, and it really worked out. It's really exciting," he added.

According to Russell and Xu, theirs is the first fast, simple, robust and precise way to generate thin films containing arrays of "highly oriented, closed-packed, nanoscopic cylindrical domains that span the entire film thickness and have an exceptionally high degree of long-range lateral order."

"This method opens the possibility for use in photovoltaics and reveals a pathway to efficient energy-harvesting devices," said Russell. (ANI)

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