IBM Develops Patterning Technique that Could Replace E-Beam Lithography

A new patterning technique for creating 3D objects with nanoscale features could impact industries from electronics and optoelectronics to medicine

1 min read

While avoiding terrorists attacks from Italian eco-terrorists, IBM researchers in Zurich have developed a patterning technique that is able to produce structures 80% to 90% more cheaply than electron beam lithography.

The work, which was originally reported in the journals Advanced Materials and Science is described in this video.

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 The technique, which uses a heated silicon tip attached to a flexible cantilever, can make structures with features as small as 15 nanometers. To demonstrate this capability the researchers created 3D maps of the world that are so small that 1000 of these maps could fit onto a grain of salt.

Of course, in order to have the technique work the researchers needed to develop special materials and in these demonstrations the materials are a phthalaldehyde polymer film and molecular glass. 

The “a-ha” moment occurred to IBM Urs Duerig when he realized that they were removing material rather than displacing it after he looked at some indent patterns that were much different than from what he was expecting. According to Duerig, it was like fulfilling a dream of his of engraving information like the Egyptians chiseled characters into stone but doing it on the nanoscale.

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The Transistor of 2047: Expert Predictions

What will the device be like on its 100th anniversary?

4 min read
Six men and a woman smiling.

The luminaries who dared predict the future of the transistor for IEEE Spectrum include: [clockwise from left] Gabriel Loh, Sri Samavedam, Sayeef Salahuddin, Richard Schultz, Suman Datta, Tsu-Jae King Liu, and H.-S. Philip Wong.


The 100th anniversary of the invention of the transistor will happen in 2047. What will transistors be like then? Will they even be the critical computing element they are today? IEEE Spectrum asked experts from around the world for their predictions.

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