Liquid crystals for nanolithography
Liquid crystals have long been known for their capability to self-assemble into regular structures with nanometer size domains. Here we explore the option of using the self-assembling properties of these molecules to construct the next generation of semiconducting features, such as line spaces and periodic hole patterns, multiple times more dense than the current state of the art. To do this, we design novel liquid crystals which contain a large volume fraction of inorganic material.
In order to align, direct and register the bottom-up self-assembly process, we combine with top-down lithographic techniques such as graphoepitaxy. It is anticipated that the results will lead to a new type of manufacturing technology based on liquid crystals that has the capability to replace current technology after the next ten years. This research is carried out in collaboration with ASML, the world leader in photolithography systems.
Nanoporous materails are of great interest due to their applications in areas of filtration, adsorption, separation and catalysis. Due to the small pore size in these materials, discrimination between molecules and ions based on size and shape are possible, while the confined environment could enhance chemical reactions. The self-organization of liquid crystals and their polymers is very appealing for making small pores. To achieve this goal, smectic phases can be used to prepare nanoporous membranes. We are currently exploring the possible applications of these materials in the field of nanofiltration, adsorpton recovery and catalysis. Other potential application areas include regenerative medicine where carefully tailored porous scaffolds differentiate and proliferate stem cells to grow tissue and organs.