Direct nanopatterning of polymer/silver nanoblocks under low energy electron beam irradiation†
In this communication, we report on the growth, direct writing and nanopatterning of polymer/silver nanoblocks under low energy electron beam irradiation using a scanning electron microscope. The nanoblocks are produced by placing a droplet of an ethylene glycol solution containing silver nitrate and polyvinylpyrrolidone diluted in ethanol directly on a hot substrate heated up to 150 °C. Upon complete evaporation of the droplet, nanospheres, nano- and micro-triangles and nanoblocks made of silver-containing polymers, form over the substrate surface. Considering the nanoblocks as a model system, we demonstrate that such nanostructures are extremely sensitive to the e-beam extracted from the source of a scanning electron microscope operating at low acceleration voltages (between 5 and 7 kV). This sensitivity allows us to efficiently create various nanopatterns (e.g. arrays of holes, oblique slits and nanotrenches) in the material under e-beam irradiation. In addition to the possibility of writing, the nanoblocks revealed a self-healing ability allowing them to recover a relatively smooth surface after etching. Thanks to these properties, such nanomaterials can be used as a support for data writing and erasing on the nanoscale under low energy electron beam irradiation.