Locally enhanced relative humidity for scanning probe nanolithography

Ming Su*, Zixiao Pan, Vinayak P. Dravid, Thomas Thundat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The formation of a water meniscus between a sharp tip and a solid surface is one of the prevailing requirements for scanning probe microscope (SPM)-based lithographies, such as dip-pen nanolithography (DPN) and conductive tip induced oxidation. The water meniscus functions as a medium for the oxidation of or mass transfer to the solid surface. Here we report a simple, efficient, and effective approach to enhance the local relative humidity and thus increase the size of the water meniscus by bringing a water-containing capillary tube to the proximity of the tip-surface contact area. The enhancement in local relative humidity is confirmed via an increase in the measured tip-surface adhesion forces and the widths of DPN generated parallel lines. Compared to the global control of relative humidity for the whole lithography system, the short distance between the "water reservoir" and the tip-surface contact area enables rapid increase in the local vapor pressure of water, less perturbation, and minimal erosion to the state-of-the-art electronics. As a result, most scanning probe lithography experiments at high relative humidity can now be performed in a reasonable time frame.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10902-10906
Number of pages5
Issue number24
StatePublished - Nov 22 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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