Refractive index matched polymeric and preceramic resins for height-scalable two-photon lithography†
Nanofabrication techniques that can generate large and complex 3D structures with nanoscale features are becoming increasingly important in the fields of biomedicine, micro-optics, and microfluidics. Direct laser writing via two-photon polymerization (DLW-TPP) is one such technique that relies on nonlinear absorption of light to form nanoscale 3D features. Although DLW-TPP provides the required nanoscale resolution, its built height is often limited to less than a millimetre. This height limitation is driven by the need to tightly focus the laser beam at arbitrary depths within the photopolymer. This requirement necessitates matching the photopolymer's refractive index to specific values but the required techniques have not been disseminated widely in the open scientific literature. To address this knowledge gap, we test two universal, different approaches to generate refractive index-matched polymeric and preceramic resins and demonstrate their performance by printing of fine submicron features in 3D structures as tall as 2.5 mm. Specifically, we achieve index-matching by mixing commercially-available resins or covalent modification of functional monomers. This work investigates the relationship of voxel shape to RI mismatch, and presents tuning of RI through mixing and covalent modification to a nonconventional material system of preceramic resin which has never been demonstrated before. We demonstrate the material flexibility by generating 3D silicon oxycarbide structures from preceramic resists while simultaneously eliminating the part-height limitation of conventional DLW-TPP.