Toward 4D Nanoprinting with Tip-Induced Organic Surface Reactions

Carlos Carbonell, Adam B. Braunschweig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Conspectus Future nanomanufacturing tools will prepare organic materials with complex four-dimensional (4D) structure, where the position (x, y, z) and chemical composition within a volume is controlled with sub-1 μm spatial resolution. Such tools could produce substrates that mimic biological interfaces, like the cell surface or the extracellular matrix, whose topology and chemical complexity combine to direct some of the most sophisticated biological events. The control of organic materials at the nanoscale-level of spatial resolution could revolutionize the assembly of next generation optical and electronic devices or substrates for tissue engineering or enable fundamental biological or material science investigations. Organic chemistry provides the requisite control over the orientation and position of matter within a nanoscale reference frame through the formation of new covalent bonds. Several challenges however preclude the integration of organic chemistry with conventional nanomanufacturing approaches, namely most nanolithography platforms would denature or destroy delicate organic and biologically active matter, confirming covalent bond formation at interfaces remains difficult, and finally, only a small handful of the reactions used to transform molecules in solution have been validated on surfaces. Thus, entirely new approaches, where organic transformations and spatial control are considered equally important contributors, are needed to create 4D organic nanoprinting platforms. This Account describes efforts from our group to reconcile nanolithography, and specifically massively parallel scanning probe lithography (SPL), with organic chemistry to further the goal of 4D organic nanoprinting. Massively parallel SPL involves arrays of elastomeric pyramids mounted onto piezoelectric actuators, and creates patterns with feature diameters below 50 nm by using the pyramidal tips for either the direct deposition of ink or the localized delivery of energy to a surface. While other groups have focused on tip and array architetctures, our efforts have been on exploring their use for localizing organic chemistry on surfaces with nanoscale spatial resolution in 3D. Herein we describe the use of massively parallel SPL to create covalently immobilized patterns of organic materials using thermal, catalytic, photochemical, and force-accelerated reactions. In doing so, we have developed a high-throughput protocol for confirming interfacial bond formation. These efforts have resulted in new opportunities for the preparation of glycan arrays, novel approaches for covalently patterning graphene, and a 3D nanoprinter by combining photochemical brush polymerizations with SPL. Achieving true 4D nanoprinting involves advances in surface chemistry and instrumentation development, and to this end 4D micropatterns were produced in a microfluidic photoreactor that can position polymers composed of different monomers within micrometer proximity. A substantial gap remains, however, between these current technologies and the future’s 4D nanomanufacturing tools, but the marriage of SPL with organic chemistry is an important step toward this goal. As this field continues to mature we can expect bottom-up 4D nanomanufacturing to begin supplanting conventional top-down strategies for preparing electronics, bioarrays, and functional substrates. In addition, these new printing technologies may enable the preparation of synthetic targets, such as artificial biological interfaces, with a level of organic sophistication that is entirely unachievable using existing technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-198
Number of pages9
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 21 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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