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Fabrication of nanoscale pits with high throughput on polymer thin film using AFM tip-based dynamic plowing lithography

He, Yang and Geng, Yanquan and Yan, Yongda and Luo, Xichun (2017) Fabrication of nanoscale pits with high throughput on polymer thin film using AFM tip-based dynamic plowing lithography. Nanoscale Research Letters, 12. ISSN 1931-7573

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We show that an atomic force microscope (AFM) tip-based dynamic plowing lithography (DPL) approach can be used to fabricate nano-scale pits with high throughput. The method relies on scratching with a relatively large speed over a sample surface in tapping mode, which is responsible for the separation distance of adjacent pits. Scratching tests are carried out on a poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) thin film using a diamond-like carbon coating tip. Results show that 100 μm/s is the critical value of the scratching speed. When the scratching speed is greater than 100 μm/s, pit structures can be generated. In contrast, nanogrooves can be formed with speeds less than the critical value. Because of the difficulty of breaking the molecular chain of glass-state polymer with an applied high-frequency load and low-energy dissipation in one interaction of the tip and the sample, one pit requires 65–80 penetrations to be achieved. Subsequently, the forming process of the pit is analyzed in detail, including three phases: elastic deformation, plastic deformation, and climbing over the pile-up. In particular, 4800–5800 pits can be obtained in one second using this proposed method. Both experiments and theoretical analysis are presented that fully determine the potential of this proposed method to fabricate pits efficiently.