Washington, Feb 28 (ANI): A team of scientists is developing the basic principles of "nano-origami," a new technique that allows engineers to fold nanoscale materials into simple 3-D structures, which could be used to make tiny electronic devices.
The tiny folded materials could be used as motors and capacitors, potentially leading to better computer memory storage, faster microprocessors and new nanophotonic devices.
The technique, developed by a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was led by George Barbastathis, associate professor of mechanical engineering.
Traditional micro- and nano-fabrication techniques such as X-ray lithography and nano-imprinting work beautifully for two-dimensional structures, and are commonly used to build microprocessors and other micro-electrical-mechanical (MEMS) devices.
However, they cannot create 3-D structures.
"A lot of what's done now is planar," said Tony Nichol, a mechanical engineering graduate student working on the project. "We want to take all of the nice tools that have been developed for 2-D and do 3-D things," he added.
The MIT team uses conventional lithography tools to pattern 2-D materials at the nanoscale, then folds them into predetermined 3-D shapes, opening a new realm of possible applications.
The researchers have already demonstrated a 3-D nanoscale capacitor, developed in collaboration with MIT Professor Yang Shao-Horn, which was presented at the 2005 meeting of the Electrochemical Society.
The current model has only one fold but the more folds that are added, the more energy it will be able to store.
"Extra layers also promote faster information flow, just as the human brain's many folds allow for quicker communication between brain regions," said Nader Shaar, a mechanical engineering graduate student working on the project.
Once the material is folded, the tricky part is getting the faces to align properly.
The researchers have developed a few ways to do this successfully: one uses magnets; another involves attaching polymers to a certain spot on the faces and melting them with an electric current, sealing the two faces together.
The researchers are now deep in the development phase of their nano-folded devices, but they are starting to think about how the technology could be used in the future.
"We've got the core components figured out, and now we're just having fun with figuring out some applications," said Nichol. (ANI)