Taking into consideration their attractive thermal, mechanical, and electrical properties, polyimide films patterned at nanoscale using DPL can be employed in various domains, such as microelectronics and optoelectronics, biomedicine, in applications such as micro-fluidics, fabrication of bio- analytical assays, and liquid crystal alignment layers. For optimal orientation of liquid crystals on polyimide surfaces, the dimensions of the well-defined nanochannels can be controlled by the polymer structural organization and adjusting the loading force in DPL process. Therefore, custom nanostructures will be obtained using different polyimide structures depending on the type of the liquid crystal used in desired applications. Recently, Murray et al.31 used AFM on a polyimide-coated substrate in order to create complex patterns consisting of two-dimensional topological defect arrays of arbitrary defect strength to serve as alignment templates for nematic liquid crystals. The atomic force microscope tip-based nanomechanical technique with the unique properties of low-cost with simple, highly accurate, and flexible control has been used to successfiilly fabricate nanodots, nanolines, and two- dimensional or three-dimensional nanostructures on flat or curved surfaces for applications in nanofluids, nanoelectronics, and nanosensors 52_54. This manufacturing technique can be integrated with other conventional micro/ nanofabrication methods including optical lithography, lift-off process, and wet etching. Thus, in order to achieve significant results, more attention is expected in the future to the association of this technique with other micro/ nanofabrication approaches. This definitely will advance AFM-based DPL closer to the industrial application.27


The chapter presented a short description, advantages, and limitations of the AFM as a method for visualization, measurement, and modification at nanometer scale of the polymer samples by means of the force-assisted lithographic techniques, such as static and dynamic plowing performed in two different modes, namely vector and raster. Among the polymers that can be patterned at nanoscale with AFM, polyimides were chosen due to then attractive mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties. In order to establish the proper conditions to obtain well-defined nanochannels, a preliminary study was made presenting the influence of the DPL and SPL in vector mode on the sharpness, contamination, and degradation of the AFM tip, and on the polyimide surface pattern aspect. The conclusion was that in contradistinction with the SPL, the DPL is more adequate to be used to pattern a surface to result even nanochannels with desired shape without any supplementary polymeric material moved in the direction of the lithography or on each side of it. Furthermore, in the same nanolithography conditions, nanostmctured morphology was obtained on three different polyimide films. By applying a complete characterization through the surface texture and functional parameters, the influence of the dianhydride and diamine moieties (the backbone flexibility and the aliphatic/ aromatic nature of the monomers) on the characteristics of the pattern was revealed. By setting the optimum conditions, this technique can successfully be used to obtain custom nanostructures useful in new applications where the surface anisotropy is necessary, such as the fabrication of bio-analytical assays and liquid crystal alignment layers, or in micro-fluidics and guided cell growth.


  • • polyimide
  • • atomic force microscopy
  • • dynamic plowing lithography
  • • patterning
  • • nanostructures high-tech applications


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