Beyond Nanolithography: A 3D Printing Paradigm Shift

High-performance electronics requires billions of transistors, but their downsizing and interconnections impose technological limits. Three-dimensional (3D) printing at nanoscale can probably provide a solution.
Published in Materials
Beyond Nanolithography: A 3D Printing Paradigm Shift

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Convergence between 3D printing and nanotechnology

In today's fast-evolving technological landscape, microscopic innovations catalyze monumental advancements. The study of 3D nanoarchitectures has been creating ripples across nanophotonics and nanoelectronics. These infinitesimally small constructs allow us to explore interactions between light and matter at scales never thought possible. However, traditional methods for making nanostructures face severe limitations in material choices, processing time, and structural flexibility, hindering progress in nanophotonics and nanoelectronics. Our 3D nanoprinting technology, as reported in Nature Communications, introduces a fundamentally different approach, addressing these challenges and enabling efficient, high-precision, and scalable fabrication of diverse nanoarchitectures, redefining the paradigms of nanomanufacturing.

Figure 1. Powering next-generation of nanoelectronics and nanophotonics with the key abilities to print multiple materials of high precision. The scale bar is 1 μm, unless otherwise specified.

We are thrilled to reveal our game-changing solution in our recently published research. Imagine creating intricate 3D nanoarchitectures with features as narrow as 14 nm, over an area up to 4×4 mm², and all within a span of just 20 minutes! Sounds too good to be true? Welcome to the reality we have unlocked with our 3D nanoprinting technology, which we coined as Faraday 3D printing

Our 3D nanoprinting results from tireless innovation and relentless pursuit of precision. It opens up the vast potential of multimaterials printing, which was largely elusive until now. Adjusting electric and flow fields provides a high degree of flexibility in materials―from single metals to alloys and multimaterials. Even more exciting, we can now tailor the optical properties of the printed nanoarchitectures by adjusting the material, geometry, feature size, and array periodicity. 

Key innovations 

Our groundbreaking 3D nanoprinter uses of a double-layer flow whereby one layer carries the aerosol while the other layer, which is adjacent to the substrate, flushes away neutral aerosol particles away from the substrate surface while charged ones follow the field lines and be deposited to precise locations. This design not only makes an end product unobscured by the random attachment of neutral particles to either the substrate or emerging structures, but also exerts the capability for size-selection of the charged aerosol particles. Such size-selection eliminates the material influence, as the motion of charged particles with given sizes is independent of materials. This in situ printing overcomes material restrictions, limited downsizing capability, and low efficiency encountered in traditional nanomanufacturing techniques. The new methodology favors to work in the dry-gas environment, thus preserving material purity, eliminating the need for complex post-treatment. Notably, our 3D nanoprinter powerfully enables the possibility to fabricate 8000 × 8000 uniform 3D nanostructures within a brief time frame of 20 minutes and boasts of the finest linewidth ever reported ― an astounding 14 nm.  

The diversity of materials it can handle is stunning - Au, Ag, Pd, Pt in the single type category and Au–Ag, Ni–Ti, Ni–Cr–Co–Mo–Ag in the alloy type. We can now fabricate complex nanoarchitectures efficiently, which were previously constrained by cost and complexity. With its ability to print uniform 3D nanostructures at an industrial scale, this high-speed, cost-effective printer offers a realistic alternative to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, a dominating powerhouse in improving computational power and enery efficiency.  
The advent of our self-developed 3D nanoprinter is more than a scientific innovation - it is a revolution that upends current norms and sets the stage for a wave of advancements in nanotechnology and atomic-level manufacturing. By integrating our printer into semiconductor assembly lines, we can accelerate the one-pass printing of micro-bumps and interconnects with nanometer feature sizes on a wafer scale. Our group is well-equipped and poised to realize these objectives with support from School of Physical Science and Technology  and the Center for Transformative Science at ShanghaiTech University

The coming future: Embracing 3D nanoprinting and global synergies

We believe that transitioning from lithography to 3D printing in the realm of nanoelectronics and nanophotonics represents a paradigm shift, defining the central research challenges of the future. To address these challenges, it is imperative to concentrate on fundamental advancements in materials, devices, processing, and the design and fabrication of highly complex systems. 

The fascinating realm of modern 3D printing has evolved, and the ability to work with multi-materials at nanoscale precision is now a reality. As we venture deeper into the intricacies of nanophotonics/plasmonics and nanoelectronics, the potential for transformative developments is immense.

We warmly welcome international collaborations and are in search of like-minded individuals who are equally fervent about creating groundbreaking work. We already made initial collaborations with Dr. Vasanthan Devaraj from Pusan National University. If you also share similar passion and vision, it is an open invitation to join forces. Together, we can transcend borders, both literal and scientific, to redefine the boundaries of nanotechnology!  

About our research 

Aerosol Intelligence Laboratory (AIL) aims at mapping out the future of system-level integration with new nanoprinting solutions.  Based on aerosol nanotechnology, our group harnesses the “artificial lightning” to create partices consisting of a few atoms up to several nanometers and their constituents range from single metals, semiconducting materials to unprecedented alloys. Using these particles as building blocks, we then control their dynamic interplay with “lines of forces” to make 3D nanoarchitectures, with nanometer-scale control over the size, orientations, and position of each nanostructure. Based on the understanding of Faraday 3D printing, we weave together various possibilities for printing optical metamaterials, FETs, microbumps, interconnects and more to be discovered. 

More information about us can be found at or scan the QR code below:

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