In response to the electronics industrys rallying cry of smaller and faster, the next breakthroughs in the electronics size barrier are likely to come from microchips and data storage devices created out of novel materials such as organic molecules and polymers. With innovative measurement techniques and new ways to position the molecules, NIST researchers reported at the March Meeting of the American Physical Society how they have improved manipulation of so-called block copolymerspolymers made of a mixture of two or more different molecule building blocks that are tethered at a junction pointwhich can form arrays of tiny dots that could be used as the basis for electronic components that pack terabytes (1000 gigabytes) of memory in something as small as a pack of gum.
One of the challenges in polymer nanotechnology is how to control their self-assemblya hard-to-control process for materials which require precision. An important recent NIST accomplishment has been in developing accurate measurements of thin film polymeric nanostructure in 3-D. (Ironically, while determining atomic structure is well-established, measuring the slightly larger internal structure of the polymerson the order of 10 to 20 nanometersis much harder.) Ron Jones, together with colleagues from NIST, the University of Maryland and IBM, has used NISTs neutron scattering and reflectivity facility to deflect neutrons off block copolymer films from many different angles. By combining the many 2-D neutron scattering pictures into a single composite scattering pattern, this technique provides the first quantitative method for imaging the 3-D internal structure of thin film polymeric nanostructures using neutron scatteringa crucial tool to see if the nanoscale polymer structures are in their required positions.1
NIST researchers also have developed new insights on how best to nudge these self-assembling material into those positions. August Bosse will report on computer si
|Contact: Michael Baum|
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)