Researchers at KTH Microsystem Technology have demonstrated a new technology for printing 3D silicon micro- and nanostructures. Silicon is the material used to manufacture integrated circuits and other micro-sized electronic devices. Production of silicon micro- and nanosensors with current technologies requires a full-scale clean-room laboratory and highly complicated fabrication schemes.
This team led by Frank Niklaus, Associate Professor at KTH Microsystem Technology received a grant of EUR 1.5 million (about SEK 15 million) from the European Research Council for their research on new manufacturing paradigms for micro- and nanosystems. And what they developed is a very easy, flexible and cheap method using 3D printer and 3D modeling software.
The new manufacturing technology consists of a layer-by-layer process for defining 3D patterns in silicon, using focused ion beam writing followed by silicon deposition. The layered 3D silicon structures are defined by repeating these two steps over and over, followed by a final etching step in which the excess silicon material is dissolved away.
"In a future manufacturing process, the structure would first be designed in a 3D drawing programme. The drawing is then sent to a 3D printer that recreates the structure in silicon, layer by layer from the bottom up," explains Niklaus.
The team is now refining the manufacturing process on a larger scale and plans to develop 3D printer that enables printing of 3D silicon micro- and nanostructures. And then they will work with interested industrial partners to commercialize this technology.
"Just imagine all the new applications that people could come up with if they had an easy and cheap way to manufacture nanostructures for sensors and devices. With this tool, we want to enable smaller markets and organisations to advance sensors and other technologies in ways that we can't even imagine today. I'd compare it to the way affordable computing opened things up for innovation in information technologies over the last 30 years or so." says Frank Niklaus.
The team had the work published in June 2012 in "Advanced Functional Materials", a leading journal in the field, with an article titled "3D Free-Form Patterning of Silicon by Ion Implantation, Silicon Deposition, and Selective Silicon Etching".
Visit KTH Microsystem Technology at www.kth.se.
Posted in 3D Printing Technology
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