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NSF Press Release


Embargoed until 2 p.m. EST

NSF PR 01-12 - February 8, 2001

Media contact:

 Amber Jones

 (703) 292-8070

Program contact:

 Guebre Tessema

 (703) 292-4943

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

'Molecular Rulers' Make Nano-Scale Gaps
Precise spacings between structures allow construction of nano-wires

Scientists at Penn State have developed a precise method for making nano-sized metal wires spaced very close to each other. The process could speed the miniaturization of electronic devices used for circuits, high-density data storage and sensors.

A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. Anat Hatzor and Paul Weiss, with support from the National Science Foundation, fabricated wires that range from 15 to 70 nanometers wide and a few micrometers long and are spaced 10 to 40 nanometers apart. Previously, nano-scale construction methods had been limited to structures with larger, less controlled spacings. Their results are published in the February 9 issue of Science.

The scientists used organic molecules as "molecular rulers," expanding the molecules into nano-scale structures with precise amounts of spacing between them, then using those spaces as miniature molds for gold wires.

The ability to create precisely sized, parallel nano-wires simultaneously is expected to be useful in the development of molecular electronics, in which molecules connected by such wires will serve as transistors, switches and other electronic devices.

"This work represents a successful marriage between chemistry and conventional methods for making microelectronic devices," said NSF program manager Guebre Tessema. "These scientists have achieved greater precision and miniaturization, opening a new era in lithography techniques."

The research was funded by NSF, the Army Research Office, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Research. It was conducted at one of NSF's National Nanofabrication Users Network facilities, at Pennsylvania State University. The users network provides the research and industrial communities with infrastructure and equipment to make nano-scale devices in small quantities.


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