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Bubble pen paves the way for improved technology

Although nanotechnology is advancing and delivering innovations in the consumer and medical spheres, future applications are hampered by precision: how to coat nanoparticles onto incredibly tiny surfaces with consistency and accuracy? The solution is a “bubble pen,” designed to quickly, gently and precisely handle tiny particles.

The pen works, according to Controlled Environments magazine, by using microbubbles to make the inscriptions onto surfaces. The microbubbles are the mechanism to to gently transport nanoparticles to the precise location on a surface. Trials involving various shapes, sizes, compositions, as well as variable distances between nanostructures, have proved successful.

The process involves, as Nano Werk magazine interprets it, by focusing a laser underneath a sheet of gold “nanoislands,” using the bubble pen. This generates a “hot zone” which develops a microbubble out of vaporized water. The bubble then attracts and holds onto a nanoparticle through a mix of gas pressure, thermal and surface tension, and adhesion. A controlled laser steers the microbubble to move the nanoparticle towards the required site on a surface. When the laser is deactivated, the microbubble disappears, leaving the particle on the surface.

The overall technique is termed “bubble-pen lithography.” The video below explains more:

The advantage of the newly devised technique is to build a new generation of build tiny machines, biomedical sensors, optical computers, and solar panels, in ways that are more efficient than those currently available.

The technology was developed at Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. The development is published in the journal Nano Letters. The paper is titled, simply “Bubble-Pen Lithography.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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