Nanofabrication strategies are becoming increasingly expensive and equipment-intensive, and consequently less accessible to researchers. As an alternative, scanning probe lithography has become a popular means of preparing nanoscale structures, in part owing to its relatively low cost and high resolution, and a registration accuracy that exceeds most existing technologies. However, increasing the throughput of cantilever-based scanning probe systems while maintaining their resolution and registration advantages has from the outset been a significant challenge. Even with impressive recent advances in cantilever array design, such arrays tend to be highly specialized for a given application, expensive, and often difficult to implement. It is therefore difficult to imagine commercially viable production methods based on scanning probe systems that rely on conventional cantilevers. Here we describe a low-cost and scalable cantilever-free tip-based nanopatterning method that uses an array of hard silicon tips mounted onto an elastomeric backing. This methodwhich we term hard-tip, soft-spring lithographyovercomes the throughput problems of cantilever-based scanning probe systems and the resolution limits imposed by the use of elastomeric stamps and tips: it is capable of delivering materials or energy to a surface to create arbitrary patterns of features with sub-50-nm resolution over centimetre-scale areas. We argue that hard-tip, soft-spring lithography is a versatile nanolithography strategy that should be widely adopted by academic and industrial researchers for rapid prototyping applications.
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