Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Naval Research Laboratory have developed an improved method to directly write nanometer-scale patterns onto a variety of surfaces.

Reported in the fall 2004 issue of ResearchHorizons, the new writing method, dubbed “thermal dip pen nanolithography,” represents an important extension for DPN, an increasingly popular technique that uses atomic-force microscopy probes as pens to produce nanometer-scale patterns.

Existing dip pens apply ink via a probe tip coated with liquid ink. The pens apply ink as long as they remain in contact with a surface, but until now they have been limited by the inability turn the ink flow on and off. The thermal DPN method developed by the scientists solves the problem by using easily melted solid inks and special atomic-force microscopy probes with built-in heaters that allow writing to be turned on and off at will. The thermal technique could be used to produce features too small to be formed with light-based lithography, and as a nanoscale soldering iron for repairing circuitry on semiconductor chips. The technique also could provide a new tool for studying basic nontechnology phenomena.

For more information contact William King at Georgia Tech, (404) 385-4224,; Paul Sheehan at Naval Research Laboratory, (202) 404-3386,; Lloyd Whitman at NRL, (202) 404-8845, whitman@; or go to