Plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) and high-throughput manufacturing techniques for integrating single, aligned carbon nanotubes (CNTs) into novel 3D nanoscale architectures have been developed. First, the PECVD growth technique ensures excellent alignment of the tubes, since the tubes align in the direction of the electric field in the plasma as they are growing. Second, the tubes generated with this technique are all metallic, so their chirality is predetermined, which is important for electronic applications. Third, a wafer-scale manufacturing process was developed that is high-throughput and low-cost, and yet enables the integration of just single, aligned tubes with nanoscale 3D architectures with unprecedented placement accuracy and does not rely on e-beam lithography. Such techniques should lend themselves to the integration of PECVD-grown tubes for applications ranging from interconnects, nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), sensors, bioprobes, or other 3D electronic devices.

(a) In the dc PECVD Growth Chamber, the sample was placed on a 3-in. (7.6-cm) Mo ring, where the wafer was transported from the load lock to the main chamber. (b) A single, vertically aligned tube is seen centered precisely within deep trenches, which was formed using high throughput processes.
Chemically amplified polyhydroxystyrene-resin-based deep UV resists were used in conjunction with excimer laser-based (λ = 248 nm) step-and-repeat lithography to form Ni catalyst dots ≈300 nm in diameter that nucleated single, vertically aligned tubes with high yield using dc PECVD growth. This is the first time such chemically amplified resists have been used, resulting in the nucleation of single, vertically aligned tubes.

In addition, novel 3D nanoscale architectures have been created using top-down techniques that integrate single, vertically aligned tubes. These were enabled by implementing techniques that use deep-UV chemically amplified resists for small-feature-size resolution; optical lithography units that allow unprecedented control over layer-to-layer registration; and ICP (inductively coupled plasma) etching techniques that result in near-vertical, high-aspect-ratio, 3D nanoscale architectures, in conjunction with the use of materials that are structurally and chemically compatible with the high-temperature synthesis of the PECVD-grown tubes. The techniques offer a wafer-scale process solution for integrating single PECVD-grown nanotubes into novel architectures that should accelerate their integration in 3D electronics in general.

NASA can directly benefit from this technology for its extreme-environment planetary missions. Current Si transistors are inherently more susceptible to high radiation, and do not tolerate extremes in temperature. These novel 3D nanoscale architectures can form the basis for NEMS switches that are inherently less susceptible to radiation or to thermal extremes.

This work was done by Anupama B. Kaul, Krikor G. Megerian, Paul A. Von Allmen, and Richard L. Baron of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Innovative Technology Assets Management
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Refer to NPO-46552, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

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This article first appeared in the October, 2010 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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