A diffusive ink transport model for lipid dip-pen nanolithography†
Despite diverse applications, phospholipid membrane stacks generated by dip-pen nanolithography (DPN) still lack a thorough and systematic characterization that elucidates the whole ink transport process from writing to surface spreading, with the aim of better controlling the resulting feature size and resolution. We report a quantitative analysis and modeling of the dependence of lipid DPN features (area, height and volume) on dwell time and relative humidity. The ink flow rate increases with humidity in agreement with meniscus size growth, determining the overall feature size. The observed time dependence indicates the existence of a balance between surface spreading and the ink flow rate that promotes differences in concentration at the meniscus/substrate interface. Feature shape is controlled by the substrate surface energy. The results are analyzed within a modified model for the ink transport of diffusive inks. At any humidity the dependence of the area spread on the dwell time shows two diffusion regimes: at short dwell times growth is controlled by meniscus diffusion while at long dwell times surface diffusion governs the process. The critical point for the switch of regime depends on the humidity.