DURHAM, N.C., Aug. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. engineers have adapted an old computer-aided design process to reproduce nanosize structures with features on the order of single molecules.
Duke University researchers say their automated technique for nanomanufacturing suggests the emerging nanotechnology industry might capitalize on skills already mastered by today's engineering workforce.
The researchers use the traditional computing language of macroscale milling machines to guide an atomic force microscope. The system reliably produced 3-D, nanometer-scale silicon oxide nanostructures through a process called anodization nanolithography, in which oxides are built on semiconducting and metallic surfaces by applying an electric field in tiny amounts of water.
"That's the key to moving from basic science to industrial automation," said Professor Rob Clark, chairman of Duke’s mechanical engineering and materials science department. "When you manufacture, it doesn't matter if you can do it once, the question is can you do it 100 million times and what's the variability over those 100 million times? Is it consistent enough that you can actually put it into a process?"
Clark and Matthew Johannes, who recently received his doctoral degree at Duke, will report their findings in the Aug. 29 issue of Nanotechnology.