Nanocombinatorics with Cantilever-Free Scanning Probe Arrays

Keith A. Brown, James L. Hedrick, Daniel J. Eichelsdoerfer, Chad A. Mirkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The effectiveness of combinatorial experiments is determined by the rate at which distinct experimental conditions can be prepared and interrogated. This has been particularly limiting at the intersection of nanotechnology and soft materials research, where structures are difficult to reliably prepare and materials are incompatible with conventional lithographic techniques. For example, studying nanoparticle-based heterogeneous catalysis or the interaction between biological cells and abiotic surfaces requires precise tuning of materials composition on the nanometer scale. Scanning probe techniques are poised to be major players in the combinatorial nanoscience arena because they allow one to directly deposit materials at high resolution without any harsh processing steps that limit material compatibility. The chief limitation of scanning probe techniques is throughput, as patterning with single probes is prohibitively slow in the context of large-scale combinatorial experiments. A recent paradigm shift circumvents this problem by fundamentally altering the architecture of scanning probes by replacing the conventionally used cantilever with a soft compliant film on a rigid substrate, a substitution that allows a densely packed array of probes to function in parallel in an inexpensive format. This is a major lithographic advance in terms of scalability, throughput, and versatility that, when combined with the development of approaches to actuate individual probes in cantilever-free arrays, sets the stage for scanning-probe-based tools to address scientific questions through nanocombinatorial studies in biology and materials science. In this review, we outline the development of cantilever-free scanning probe lithography and prospects for nanocombinatorial studies enabled by these tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-17
Number of pages10
JournalACS nano
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 22 2019


  • cantilever-free
  • catalytic screening
  • combinatorial synthesis
  • hard and soft material deposition
  • molecular printing
  • nanocombinatorics
  • nanofabrication
  • nanolithography
  • nanoscience
  • polymer pen lithography
  • scanning probe lithography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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