Multiphoton lithography (also known as direct laser lithography or direct laser writing) of polymer templates has been known for years by the photonic crystal community. Similar to standard photolithography techniques, structuring is accomplished by illuminating negative-tone or positive-tone photoresists via light of a well-defined wavelength. The fundamental difference is, however, the avoidance of reticles. Instead, two-photon absorption is utilized to induce a dramatic change in the solubility of the resist for appropriate developers.
Hence, multiphoton lithography is a technique for creating small features in a photosensitive material, without the use of complex optical systems or photomasks. This method relies on a multi-photon absorption process in a material that is transparent at the wavelength of the laser used for creating the pattern. By scanning and properly modulating the laser, a chemical change (usually polymerization) occurs at the focal spot of the laser and can be controlled to create an arbitrary three-dimensional periodic or non-periodic pattern. This method has been used for rapid prototyping of structures with fine features.
Two-photon absorption is a third-order with respect to the third-order optical susceptibility and a second-order process with respect to light intensity. For this reason it is a non-linear process several orders of magnitude weaker than linear absorption, thus very high light intensities are required to increase the number of such rare events. For example, tightly-focused laser beams provide the needed intensities. Here, pulsed laser sources are preferred as they deliver high-intensity pulses while depositing a relatively low average energy. To enable 3D structuring, the light source must be adequately adapted to the photoresist in that single-photon absorption is highly suppressed while two-photon absorption is favoured. This condition is met if and only if the resist is highly transparent for the laser light's output wavelength λ and, simultaneously, absorbing at λ/2. As a result, a given sample relative to the focused laser beam can be scanned while changing the resist's solubility only in a confined volume. The geometry of the latter mainly depends on the iso-intensity surfaces of the focus. Concretely, those regions of the laser beam which exceed a given exposure threshold of the photosensitive medium define the basic building block, the so-called voxel. Other parameters which influence the actual shape of the voxel are the laser mode and the refractive-index mismatch between the resist and the immersion system leading to spherical aberration.
- Deubel M, von Freymann G, Wegener M, Pereira S, Busch K, Soukoulis CM (2004). "Direct laser writing of three-dimensional photonic-crystal templates for telecommunications". Nature Materials 3 (7): 444–7. Bibcode:2004NatMa...3..444D. doi:10.1038/nmat1155. PMID 15195083.
- Haske W, Chen VW, Hales JM, Dong W, Barlow S, Marder SR, Perry JW (2007). "65 nm feature sizes using visible wavelength 3-D multiphoton lithography". Optics Express 15 (6): 3426–36. Bibcode:2007OExpr..15.3426H. doi:10.1364/OE.15.003426. PMID 19532584.
- Nano sculptures, the first nano-scale human form. Sculpture made by artist Jonty Hurwitz using multiphoton lithography, November 2014.
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- "When science and art produce nanosculpture marvels". Phys.org, Nancy Owano. 18 Nov 2014.