Scalable and number-controlled synthesis of carbon nanotubes by nanostencil lithography
© Choi et al.; licensee Springer. 2013
Received: 18 April 2013
Accepted: 28 May 2013
Published: 11 June 2013
Controlled synthesis and integration of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) remain important areas of study to develop practical carbon-based nanodevices. A method of controlling the number of CNTs synthesized depending on the size of the catalyst was characterized using nanostencil lithography, and the critical dimension for the nanoaperture produced on a stencil mask used for growing individual CNTs was studied. The stencil mask was fabricated as a nanoaperture array down to 40 nm in diameter on a low-stress silicon nitride membrane. An iron catalyst used to synthesize CNTs was deposited through submicron patterns in the stencil mask onto a silicon substrate, and the profile of the patterned iron catalyst was analyzed using atomic force microscopy. The feasibility toward a scalable, number-, and location-controlled synthesis of CNTs was experimentally demonstrated based on the diameter and geometry of the apertures in the stencil mask.
KeywordsCarbon nanotube Stencil lithography Scalable growth Number-controlled growth
Intensive research has been performed on carbon nanotube (CNT)-integrated microdevices and nanodevices to take advantage of the remarkable thermal, mechanical, electrical, and electromechanical properties of CNTs . Examples of such devices include nanoelectronic devices and optoelectronic components [2–4], actuators and oscillators [5–7], memory devices and switches [8, 9], and mechanical, chemical, biological, and thermal sensors [10–13]. Controlling the number of CNTs synthesized and their specific placement on nanostructures and microstructures is critical to using the inherent properties of massively parallel-integrated CNTs for practical device applications. However, previously reported methods of integrating CNTs in CNT-based devices are low-throughput methods such as dispersion of CNTs followed by electron beam lithography patterning , dielectrophoresis [14–17], and pick-and-place manipulation . Although the assembly of individual CNTs at specific locations has previously been demonstrated using such methods, high-throughput batch fabrication has not been feasible over a large area because of time-consuming, labor-intensive processes. Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) is scalable over a large area, so it is an attractive alternative for directly integrating individual CNTs into practical device applications. Accordingly, various methods of patterning nanocatalysts have been developed using electron beam lithography , nanoimprinting , polystyrene nanospheres , anodic aluminum oxide nanotemplates , nanocontact printing , and topographical contact holes  to synthesize individual CNTs under controlled conditions.
We used nanostencil lithography as a method of patterning a nanocatalyst to demonstrate and characterize number- and location-controlled synthesis of CNTs. Nanostencil lithography has been widely used to fabricate various nanopatterns [25–28], nanoparticles [29, 30], and nanowires , and it is advantageous because it consists of a series of simple fabrication steps and because the stencil mask is reusable. Moreover, the degree of contamination of the catalyst during patterning might be negligible in nanostencil lithography because patterning is conducted under vacuum without need for a photoresist, a solvent, or chemicals used for patterning and etching , thereby producing a residue-free catalyst suitable for CVD synthesis of CNTs. We used focused ion beam (FIB) milling on a silicon nitride membrane to fabricate nanostencil aperture arrays down to 40 nm in diameter, and the stencil mask was used to pattern a submicron iron catalyst. The thickness and width of the iron catalyst deposited through the stencil mask were analyzed using atomic force microscopy (AFM). The number of synthesized CNTs could be controlled based on the size of the aperture in the stencil mask, and individual CNTs were synthesized over a large area.
Results and discussion
We fabricated stencil masks containing nanoaperture arrays down to 40 nm in diameter in order to characterize the relation between the size of the patterned catalyst and the number of CNTs that were subsequently synthesized on the catalyst. The nanostencil mask was fabricated by first forming a low-stress silicon nitride membrane on a silicon substrate. FIB milling was subsequently used to generate nanoapertures on the membrane. The iron catalyst used to synthesize the CNTs was then deposited through the nanoapertures onto the silicon substrate. The diameter of iron catalyst was larger than that of the aperture because of blurring, and the thickness of the catalyst decreased with decreasing aperture diameter. Accordingly, the number of CNTs could be controlled by controlling the diameter of the aperture, and the iron catalyst patterned with the 40-nm-diameter aperture on the stencil mask was used to synthesize an individual CNT at the desired sites. The demonstrated scalable, number- and location-controlled synthesis of CNTs is potentially applicable to massively parallel integration of single CNTs on each of the desired locations and may enhance the producibility and yield of CNT-based functional devices.
Atomic force microscopy
Chemical vapor deposition
Focused ion beam
Scanning electron microscopy
Scanning ion microscopy.
This research was supported by the Basic Science Research Program (313-2008-2-D00084), the Smart IT Convergence System Research Center as Global Frontier Project (2011–0031870), and the Converging Research Center Program (2012 K001484) through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea funded by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology.
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