Journal of Physical Chemistry B

Three-Dimensional Nanoprinting via Direct Delivery

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Direct writing methods are a generic and simple means to produce designed structures in three dimensions (3D). The printing is achieved by extruding printing materials through a nozzle, which provides a platform to deliver a wide range of materials. Although this method has been routinely used for 3D printing at macroscopic scales, miniaturization to micrometer and nanometer scales and building hierarchical structures at multidimensional scales represent new challenges in research and development. The current work addresses these challenges by combining the spatial precision of atomic force microscopy (AFM) and local delivery capability of microfluidics. Specialized AFM probes serve dual roles of a microscopy tip and a delivery tool, enabling the miniaturization of 3D printing via direct material delivery. Stacking grids of 20 μm periodicity were printed layer-by-layer covering 1 mm × 1 mm regions. The spatial fidelity was measured to be several nanometers, which is among the highest in 3D printing. The results clearly demonstrate the feasibility of achieving high precision 3D nanoprinting with nanometer feature size and accuracy with practical throughput and overall size. This work paves the way for advanced applications of 3D hierarchical nanostructures.