A team of researchers at Georgia Tech has developed a system for scalable printing of metal nanostructures through a new technology they named Superluminescent Light Projection, or SLP. The technology inventors
Dr. Sourabh Saha and Jungho Choi filed a patent application (US63/414076) for nanoscale printing.
Today, the cost of existing nanoscale printing technology such as 2PP (two-photon polymerization) prohibits their widespread use and scalability. Current femtosecond laser-based techniques used to print complex 2D and 3D structures are slow and expensive, and often unaffordable for low and moderate-volume manufacturing applications. These high-intensity femtosecond lasers can overcome optical diffraction limits, but are costly. The current technology is also limited by a slow, sequential printing mechanism. An alternative light-based printing system is needed that eliminates expensive lasers while also achieving precise, detailed nanoscale printing of polymers and metals.
Potential applications of cost-effective nanoprinting include nanoscale patterned metallic thin films that are vital components in nano-enabled devices and applications such as electrical interconnects in high-density printed electronics, plasmonics-based meta-materials for bio-sensing and optical modulation, and microelectromechanical systems.
A low-cost superluminescent system for nanoscale printing
The SLP system developed at Georgia Tech offers several advantages for the process of nanoscale printing: lower cost, higher speed, and finer resolution. The light source is a superluminescent light emitting diode (SLED) that is 100 times less expensive than the lasers in current use, leading to an overall decrease in printing costs of 10–50 times. Utilizing the specific effects of superluminescent light projection, sharp-edged images with minimal speckling patterns are created, resulting in high-resolution images and structures on both polymer and metal-based films.
And, by implementing a parallel writing mechanism, this system generates significant improvements in throughput speed— up to 100 times faster than existing metal printing methods and four times faster than existing polymer printing methods. These benefits create a readily scalable system for a variety of industrial needs and make nanoscale printing a viable resource for a larger manufacturing audience.
SLP advantages and applications
The solution presented offers several advantages. Firstly, it is cost-effective, utilizing a readily available SLED which is significantly cheaper than the femtosecond lasers typically employed, thereby reducing nanoscale printing expenses by a considerable margin. Secondly, it boasts higher speeds due to its parallel writing system, enabling faster throughput rates, especially in metal printing, where it is at least 100 times faster, and four times faster in polymer printing compared to existing technologies. Thirdly, it offers flexibility by accommodating both polymer and metal printing, unlike other nanoscale printing methods. Moreover, it is scalable with lower lighting costs, increased printing speeds, and the potential for layer stacking to create 3D structures, making it applicable in diverse manufacturing contexts. Lastly, it delivers superior resolution thanks to the utilization of a high-numerical-aperture oil-immersion lens with superluminescent light, which enhances the capture of oblique light resulting in finer printing resolution.
The potential commercial applications of the solution are diverse and promising. They include micro-optics for quantum devices, which could revolutionize various fields by enhancing the performance of quantum technologies. Metaphotonics applications for flat optics and photonic quantum devices offer new avenues for advanced optical systems. Moreover, the solution could be instrumental in producing printed structures for light-directing chips, crucial components in technologies such as LIDAR systems used in self-driving cars, thus contributing to the advancement of autonomous vehicle technology. Additionally, the technology can be applied in the development of microfluidics chips and microrobots for biomedical and drug delivery applications, enabling precise and efficient delivery mechanisms at a microscopic scale. Furthermore, it holds promise in the realm of printed electronics, facilitating the fabrication of electronic components with intricate designs and functionalities. Lastly, printed batteries represent another potential application, offering customizable and compact power solutions for various devices and systems. Overall, the solution’s versatility opens up numerous commercial opportunities across various industries.