Prototype tools for mass producing nanostructures to launch in Singapore

Jul 28, 2011
Prototype tools for mass producing nanostructures to launch in Singapore [research]
One of the square plastic films bearing nanometer-sized patterns being rolled out of the prototype roll-to-roll UV nanoimprinter - Roll-to-roll processing will allow such unique plastics to be manufactured on a large scale. Copyright : Agency for Science, Technology and Research

The Industrial Consortium On Nanoimprint (ICON), which is helmed by the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), a research institute of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), is ready to put roll-to-roll nanoimprint manufacturing to the test.

Nanoimprinted structures and components are being used in items such as anti-reflection films, and solar cells. However, their impact in consumer products is limited as viable manufacturing processes to scale-up the production of such is lacking. IMRE and its partners in ICON are planning to manufacture the structures, using a roll to roll process. This fast, mass production method can create large area nanostructured components, opening the way for new consumer applications not previously conceptualised or economically feasible.

Roll-to-roll imprinting is the third industry-themed project by ICON that includes local and international partners such as Solves Innovative Technology Pte Ltd (), Advanced Technologies and Regenerative Medicine, LLC (ATRM) (USA), Young Chang Chemical Co. Ltd (South Korea), EV Group (Austria), Micro Resist Technology GmbH (Germany) and NTT Advanced Technology Corporation (Japan). The partners who are raw material providers, tool-makers, and end-users represent the entire value chain for producing nano-structures and putting them to use. Some of the applications that the consortium hopes to harness with roll-to-roll nanoimprint include anti-fouling surfaces, anti-reflection films to enhance the efficiency of solar cells, wire-grid polarisers, and optical films for flat panel displays.

“The roll-to-roll nanoimprinting technique is a crucial centerpiece in ICON’s plan to complete the value chain for harnessing the true potential of our bio-mimetic multifunctional nanoimprint technology surfaces”, said Dr Low Hong Yee, an IMRE senior scientist who heads the team developing the roll-to-roll nanoimprint technology. “With this method we can merge nanoimprint technologies into real-world applications and on an industrial scale”, explained Dr Low, adding that the engineered materials that are produced can be made for a variety of applications. For example, nanostructures can be used to mimic patterns of surfaces found in nature to endow the synthetic surfaces with properties such as inherent colour effects, tack-free adhesion to surfaces, water-proofing and anti-reflectivity.

ICON will be introducing two types of roll-to-roll techniques - a thermal and a UV-based version. The thermal method makes patterns on the substrate directly, can accommodate a variety of plastics for different applications, and is ideally suited for the fabrication of micro- and nano-fluidic devices, biochemical assays as well as other biomedical applications. The UV technique allows quicker processing because it is a room temperature process, and offers the advantage of fabricating the nanostructures on cross-linkable resins, thus imparting higher thermal and mechanical stability to the imprinted products.

“The joint collaborative work with ICON to design and build the first roll-to-roll thermal nanoimprinting machine gives us the chance to work with other industry partners on how this equipment can be applied”, commented Mr Hermann Waltl, Executive Sales and Customer Support Director of EV Group, whose global headquarters is in Austria, on the roll-to-roll thermal nanoimprinter that the company has jointly developed with ICON.

“ICON provides us the opportunity to hear directly from industry about their needs so that we can customise future roll-to-roll equipment designs to specific industry requirements. ICON is all about transitioning scalable nanoimprinting techniques out of the laboratory and into the marketplace. Roll-to-roll strategies certainly fit the bill here. A lot of companies are watching the progress closely”, said Mr Koh Teng Hwee, Managing Director of Solves, a small and medium enterprise that had worked with IMRE to develop the roll-to-roll UV nanoimprinting tool.

“This partnership on roll-to-roll nanoimprinting enhances our competitiveness in the global arena, particularly in helping us create new functional and patterned film technologies for displays and solar cell applications”, said Mr Kim Woo Yong, Global Marketing Director of Young Chang Chemical Co. Ltd, South Korea.

“We are happy to be involved in this groundbreaking project that will bring a new dimension to our core business and help us develop materials for a greater variety of markets and industries,” said Mrs Gabi Gruetzner, Managing Director of Micro Resist Technology GmbH (Germany), a company that specialises in providing photoresists and polymers for micro and nanolithography.

ICON is Singapore’s first nanotechnology consortium that encourages companies to adopt versatile, industry-ready nanoimprinting technology that can bring products to the market through sustainable manufacturing. Nanoimprint technology produces nanometer-sized structures of greater complexity using fewer processing steps, while minimising wastage of materials. It has evolved from a lithography technology for the semiconductor industry to a platform process technology that can be adapted to a wide range of applications. The members of ICON will gain first-hand access to these new technologies by working on joint projects to develop new products and applications that can potentially have huge savings in R&D.

Explore further: Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Thinnest feasible nano-membrane produced

Apr 17, 2014

A new nano-membrane made out of the 'super material' graphene is extremely light and breathable. Not only can this open the door to a new generation of functional waterproof clothing, but also to ultra-rapid filtration. The ...

Wiring up carbon-based electronics

Apr 17, 2014

Carbon-based nanostructures such as nanotubes, graphene sheets, and nanoribbons are unique building blocks showing versatile nanomechanical and nanoelectronic properties. These materials which are ordered ...

Making 'bucky-balls' in spin-out's sights

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —A new Oxford spin-out firm is targeting the difficult challenge of manufacturing fullerenes, known as 'bucky-balls' because of their spherical shape, a type of carbon nanomaterial which, like ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ohdamnyme
not rated yet Jul 28, 2011
you should get with the guy who made that 3D printing computer alot of money to made i want a piece too

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...