Large scale and low-cost nanopatterning of materials is of tremendous interest for optoelectronic devices. Nanoimprint lithography has emerged in recent years as a nanofabrication strategy that is high-throughput and has a resolution comparable to that of electron-beam lithography (EBL). It is enabled by pattern replication of an EBL master into polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), that is then used to pattern a resist for further processing, or a sol-gel that could be calcinated into a solid material. Although the sol-gel chemistry offers a wide spectrum of material compositions, metals are still difficult to achieve. This gap could be bridged by using colloidal nanoparticles as resist, but deep understanding of the key parameters is still lacking. Here, we use supported metallic nanocubes as a model resist to gain fundamental insights into nanoparticle imprinting. We uncover the major role played by the surfactant layer trapped between nanocubes and substrate, and measure its thickness with subnanometer resolution by using gap plasmon spectroscopy as a metrology platform. This enables us to quantify the van der Waals (VDW) interactions responsible for the friction opposing the nanocube motion, and we find that these are almost in quantitative agreement with the Stokes drag acting on the nanocubes during nanoimprint, that is estimated with a simplified fluid mechanics model. These results reveal that a minimum thickness of surfactant is required, acting as a spacer layer mitigating van der Waals forces between nanocubes and the substrate. In the light of these findings we propose a general method for resist preparation to achieve optimal nanoparticle mobility and show the assembly of printable Ag and Au nanocube grids, that could enable the fabrication of low-cost transparent electrodes of high material quality upon nanocube epitaxy.

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ACS Nano
Nanoscale Solar Cells

Capitaine, A., Bochet-Modaresialam, M., Poungsripong, P., Badie, C., Heresanu, V., Margeat, O., … Sciacca, B. (2023). Nanoparticle Imprint Lithography: From Nanoscale Metrology to Printable Metallic Grids. ACS Nano, 17(10), 9361–9373. doi:10.1021/acsnano.3c01156