. Scientific Frontline: Nanomaterials: glass printed sintered-free in 3D

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Nanomaterials: glass printed sintered-free in 3D

The new process can be used to create a wide variety of quartz glass structures on a nanometer scale.
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 Image Credit: Dr. Jens Bauer, KIT

Process developed at KIT manages with relatively low temperatures and enables high resolutions for applications in optics and semiconductor technology - publication in science

Nanometer-fine structures made of quartz glass, which can be printed directly on semiconductor chips, are produced by a process developed at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). A hybrid organic-inorganic polymer resin serves as the starting material for the 3D printing of silicon dioxide. Since the process does not require sintering, the temperatures required for this are significantly lower. At the same time, a higher resolution enables nanophotonics with visible light. The research team reports in the journal Science.

Printing quartz glass consisting of pure silicon dioxide in micro and nanometer-fine structures opens up new possibilities for many applications in optics, photonics and semiconductor technology. So far, however, techniques based on traditional sintering have dominated. The temperatures required for sintering silicon dioxide nanoparticles are above 1,100 degrees Celsius - far too hot for direct separation on semiconductor chips. A research team led by Dr. Jens Bauer from the KIT's Institute for Nanotechnology (INT) has now developed a new process for producing transparent quartz glass with high resolution and excellent mechanical properties at significantly lower temperatures.

Hybrid organic-inorganic polymer resin serves as the starting material

Bauer, who heads the Emmy Noether junior research group "Nanoarchitected Metamaterials" at KIT, and his colleagues from the University of California Irvine and the medical technology company Edwards Lifesciences in Irvine present the procedure in the journal Science. A specially developed hybrid organic-inorganic polymer resin serves as the starting material. This liquid resin consists of so-called polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane molecules (POSS): tiny cage-like silicon dioxide molecules are provided with organic functional groups.

As soon as the fully printed and networked nanostructure is formed, it is heated to a temperature of 650 degrees Celsius in the air. The organic components are driven out, and at the same time the inorganic POSS cages combine, so that a continuous micro or nanostructure is made of quartz glass. The required temperature is only half as high as for processes based on the sintering of nanoparticles.

Structures withstand difficult chemical and thermal conditions

"The lower temperature allows robust, transparent and freely shaped optical glass structures to be printed directly on semiconductor chips, with the resolution required for nanophotonics with visible light," explains Bauer. In addition to the excellent optical quality, the quartz glass produced in this way has excellent mechanical properties and is easy to process.

With the POSS resin, the team from Karlsruhe and Irvine printed many different structures on a nanoscale, including photonic crystals from free-standing, 97 nanometer-strong bars, parabolic microlenses and a multi-line micro lens with nanostructured elements. "Our process enables structures that can withstand difficult chemical or thermal conditions," explains Bauer.

Published in journalScience

Source/CreditKarlsruhe Institute of Technology

Reference Number: nt060723_01

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