Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nano-origami Used To Build Tiny Electronic Devices

Date:
February 27, 2009
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
Researchers are developing the basic principles of nano-origami, a new technique that allows engineers to fold nanoscale materials into simple 3-D structures. The tiny folded materials could be used as motors and capacitors, potentially leading to better computer memory storage, faster microprocessors and new nanophotonic devices.

A team of MIT researchers folded this polymer sheet into one corner of a cube. The edge of each face is about 800 microns.
Credit: Photo / Nader Shaar

Folding paper into shapes such as a crane or a butterfly is challenging enough for most people. Now imagine trying to fold something that's about a hundred times thinner than a human hair and then putting it to use as an electronic device.

A team of researchers led by George Barbastathis, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is developing the basic principles of "nano-origami," a new technique that allows engineers to fold nanoscale materials into simple 3-D structures. The tiny folded materials could be used as motors and capacitors, potentially leading to better computer memory storage, faster microprocessors and new nanophotonic devices.

Traditional micro- and nano-fabrication techniques such as X-ray lithography and nano-imprinting work beautifully for two-dimensional structures, and are commonly used to build microprocessors and other micro-electrical-mechanical (MEMS) devices. However, they cannot create 3-D structures.

"A lot of what's done now is planar," says Tony Nichol, a mechanical engineering graduate student working on the project. "We want to take all of the nice tools that have been developed for 2-D and do 3-D things."

The MIT team uses conventional lithography tools to pattern 2-D materials at the nanoscale, then folds them into predetermined 3-D shapes, opening a new realm of possible applications.

Smaller, faster

The researchers have already demonstrated a 3-D nanoscale capacitor, developed in collaboration with MIT Professor Yang Shao-Horn, which was presented at the 2005 meeting of the Electrochemical Society. The current model has only one fold but the more folds that are added, the more energy it will be able to store. Extra layers also promote faster information flow, just as the human brain's many folds allow for quicker communication between brain regions, says Nader Shaar, a mechanical engineering graduate student working on the project.

Getting the materials to fold back and forth into an accordion-like structure has been one of the researchers' biggest challenges, along with getting the faces and edges to line up accurately.

They have worked out several ways to induce the nanomaterials to fold, including:

  • Depositing metal (usually chromium) onto the surface where you want the fold to be. This causes the material to curl upward, but it does not allow for right angles or accordion-type folds.
  • Directing a beam of helium ions onto the desired fold location. The beams imprint patterns that will cause the material to fold once it's removed from the surface. High-energy beams go to the bottom of the material and cause it to fold up; ions from low-energy beams accumulate at the top of the material and make it fold down.
  • Embedding gold wires in the material. A current running along the gold wires interacts with an external magnetic field, creating a Lorentz force that lifts the face. This technique is a form of directed self-assembly, where the designer provides the template and then lets the device assemble itself.

The folded shapes can be fabricated with a few different types of material, including silicon, silicon nitride (a type of ceramic) and a soft polymer known as SU-8.

Once the material is folded, the tricky part is getting the faces to align properly. The researchers have developed a few ways to do this successfully: one uses magnets; another involves attaching polymers to a certain spot on the faces and melting them with an electric current, sealing the two faces together.

They're still working on getting faces and edges of a folded cube to line up with nanoscale precision, but Shaar, co-supervised by associate professor of mechanical engineering Carol Livermore, has devised a promising method that uses three pairs of matching holes and protrusions to pull the edge and face into alignment.

The researchers are deep in the development phase of their nano-folded devices, but they are starting to think about how the technology could be used in the future. "We've got the core components figured out, and now we're just having fun with figuring out some applications," says Nichol.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Nano-origami Used To Build Tiny Electronic Devices." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090227112309.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2009, February 27). Nano-origami Used To Build Tiny Electronic Devices. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090227112309.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Nano-origami Used To Build Tiny Electronic Devices." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090227112309.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

AP (July 30, 2014) Smartphone powered paper airplane that was popular on crowdfunding website KickStarter makes its debut at Wisconsin airshow (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.K. To Allow Driverless Cars On Public Roads

U.K. To Allow Driverless Cars On Public Roads

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Driverless cars could soon become a staple on U.K. city streets, as they're set to be introduced to a few cities in 2015. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins