Dr. S. V. Sreenivasan
Dr. Grant Willson
$25 million FY08
TSC MEMBER INSTITUTION(S):
University of Texas at Austin
Department of Defense
MOLECULAR IMPRINTS, INC.
ENABLING NANO-SCALE TECHNOLOGY IN MANUFACTURING
ABOUT THE COMPANY:
Molecular Imprints is a startup company spun out of the University of Texas at Austin in 2001. The company was created to commercialize a newly invented technology called “Step and Flash Imprint Lithography,” which has demonstrated the ability to pattern features as small as 3 nanometers (nm), or about the diameter of a DNA molecule.
Nano-lithography is the method of creating very small patterns on a substrate. The technology is critically important, especially to the production of electronic devices such as computer chips. Today, the technology used to do this is an optical technique, much like making photographic prints, where the patterns are projected onto a light sensitive resist on the substrate using a very sophisticated and expensive camera. However, as demand grows for smaller and faster chips, this technology is limited by the wavelength of light — it is difficult to make a 50nm feature with a 200nm light source. Step and flash technology requires neither a light source nor a complicated lens assembly. Instead, it allows for the production of a very accurate “master” using an electron beam tool of almost unlimited resolution. The master is then used to simply print, using a special ink, the features onto the substrate. The technology holds the prospect of denser storage at a lower cost.
UNIVERSITY-BASED RESEARCH CONNECTION:
The technology used by Molecular Imprints is based on the pioneering research of University of Texas at Austin professors Dr. S. V. Sreenivasan and Dr. Grant Willson. Sreenivasan is chief technology officer of the company, while continuing to teach at UT Austin. Willson, who holds the Rashid Engineering Regents Chair at the Cockrell School of Engineering, received the National Medal for Technology and Innovation for his work on lithographic imaging materials and techniques.
ROLE OF FEDERAL RESEARCH FUNDING:
Some of the funding for the research conducted at UT Austin that led to the creation of Molecular Imprints was provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), part of the Department of Defense.
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