Nanotechnology goes out on a wing

October 31, 2006

What does a colorful and noisy backyard insect have to do with nanotechnology? Plenty, according to Jin Zhang and Zhongfan Liu, both professors at Peking University.

A team of researchers led by Zhang and Liu have used the wings of cicadas, ubiquitous insects best known for their acoustic skills, as stamps to pattern polymer films with nanometer-sized structures. The wings of these insects are characterized by highly ordered arrays of closely spaced microscopic pillars. When these wings are pushed down upon a smooth polymer film, they create a negative imprint of the array pattern.

Zhang, Liu, and their co-workers from Peking University and Nanotechnology Industrialization Base of China have found that the insect wings possess sufficient rigidity and chemical stability and have a low enough surface tension to be used as stamps to pattern polymer films on silicon substrates. A low surface tension is necessary so that the wings do not stick to the substrate and can be released without destroying the imprinted structures.

Quite remarkably, the wings have a waxy coating, which imparts an intrinsically low surface tension to these structures, making them ideal for use as stamps. An ordered array of microscopic wells can be obtained on the polymer film by using the pillar array on the wings. This pattern can be transferred to silicon by an etching process, leading to the formation of 'nano-wells' on a silicon chip.

Silicon wafers patterned with 'nano-wells' show promising anti-reflective properties. Arrays of microscopic gold pillars can also be obtained by using the imprinted molds. These pillar arrays are almost exact replicas of the structures found on the insect wings and may be useful for optical imaging or the detection of molecules by Raman spectroscopy.

"This technique is a powerful demonstration of how natural nanostructures existing in the environment can be used to pattern microscopic structures not easily accessible by conventional microfabrication technology", said Zhang. "There is a lot that nature can teach us about nanotechnology", added Liu, citing examples of butterfly wings and lotus leaves, which are characterized by exquisitely ordered arrays of microscale and nanoscale structures.

Citation: Jin Zhang, Zhongfan Liu, et al., Cicada Wings: A Stamp from Nature for Nanoimprint Lithography, Small 2006, 2, No. 12, 1440–1443, doi: 10.1002/small.200600255

Source: John Wiley & Sons

Explore further: Density-near-zero acoustical metamaterial made in China

Related Stories

Density-near-zero acoustical metamaterial made in China

July 14, 2015

When a sound wave hits an obstacle and is scattered, the signal may be lost or degraded. But what if you could guide the signal around that obstacle, as if the interfering barrier didn't even exist? Recently, researchers ...

In a single step, engineers create a rainbow-colored polymer

February 23, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- University at Buffalo engineers have developed a one-step, low-cost method to fabricate a polymer with extraordinary properties: When viewed from a single perspective, the polymer is rainbow-colored, reflecting ...

Birds, bats and insects hold secrets for aerospace engineers

February 4, 2008

Natural flyers like birds, bats and insects outperform man-made aircraft in aerobatics and efficiency. University of Michigan engineers are studying these animals as a step toward designing flapping-wing planes with wingspans ...

Recommended for you

An engineered surface unsticks sticky water droplets

August 31, 2015

The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets ...

Electrical circuit made of gel can repair itself

August 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—Scientists have fabricated a flexible electrical circuit that, when cut into two pieces, can repair itself and fully restore its original conductivity. The circuit is made of a new gel that possesses a combination ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.