One-Step Nanoscale Assembly of Complex Structures via Harnessing of an Elastic Instability

Nano Lett. 2008 Apr;8(4):1192-6. doi: 10.1021/nl0801531. Epub 2008 Mar 12.


We report on a simple yet robust method to produce orientationally modulated two-dimensional patterns with sub-100 nm features over cm2 regions via a solvent-induced swelling instability of an elastomeric film with micrometer-scale perforations. The dramatic reduction of feature size ( approximately 10 times) is achieved in a single step, and the process is reversible and repeatable without the requirement of delicate surface preparation or chemistry. By suspending ferrous and other functional nanoparticles in the solvent, we have faithfully printed the emergent patterns onto flat and curved substrates. We model this elastic instability in terms of elastically interacting "dislocation dipoles" and find complete agreement between the theoretical ground-state and the observed pattern. Our understanding allows us to manipulate the structural details of the membrane to tailor the elastic distortions and generate a variety of nanostructures.