The technology FEBID (focused electron beam induced deposition) is already successfully used in the additive production of flat nanostructures. By further developing the technology, Graz University of Technology aims to also enable the printing of complex, three-dimensional objects in the future. The new method should open up new areas of application for industry that currently remain closed to alternative nanofabrication methods such as electron beam lithography. Together with the cooperation partners GETec Microscopy and Anton Paar GmbH , the scientists from Graz are already using their development in the field of atomic force microscopy, for the production of functional nano-probes, in some cases with apex radii of less than 10 nm.

The printing process takes place in the vacuum chamber of the electron microscopes. “The functional gases are introduced with a fine capillary in close proximity to the sample,” explains Harald Plank from the Austrian Center for Electron Microscopy and Nanoanalysis at Graz University of Technology and head of the Christian Doppler Laboratory based there. “The gaseous molecules then adsorb on the surface and are chemically broken down and immobilized by the focused electron beam – they remain in place through interaction with the electrons.” According to the scientist, 3D nanoprinting can be imagined like a ballpoint pen: The electron beam acts like the a ballpoint pen refill and the gas is the ink.