Manufacturing a microchip using thin film technology lacks precision. Coating strategies, for example, spin coating is a basic and the most utilized strategy in microelectronics; however, this technique does not give great and reproducible outcomes on profound cavities of various size. Electrodeposition technique, on the other hand, is a much more complicated coating technique than spin coating and takes more time. Other techniques disperse fluid all around the components while moving the coated structure physically. Current methods used for thin film coating are not cost effective and use bulky structures to perform the operation. Hence, there remains a need for a reliable and inexpensive fabrication method, which can be both portable and efficient.
Addressing the above challenges, researchers from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have discovered an innovative method called as “acoustowetting”, a method which uses high-frequency sound waves to fabricate microchip with thin film fluid. To use acoustowetting, the researchers use a portable system.
The portable system developed by the researchers of RMIT, works on a chip made up of lithium niobate, a piezoelectric material capable of converting electrical energy into mechanical energy. Lithium niobate chip is covered with microelectrodes. These microelectrodes form an array and are used as a transducer. Lithium niobate chip is connected to the power source and with the help of transducers on the chip, the power source is converted into high-frequency sound waves. When a thin film fluid is added to the surface of the chip, high-frequency sound waves control the flow of the thin film fluid and direct the flow accordingly. The thinner section of the fluid moves towards the sound wave and the thicker section moves away from the sound wave. When clumps of fluid start building in the thinner section, it makes the fluid thick and then changes its direction towards the sound wave. In this way, high-frequency sound waves harness the precision of manufacturing micro and nanochips.
The solution once fully developed will offer benefits in thin film coating for paints and for micro casting and microfluidics. The acoustowetting method will help to coat the artificial tissues used in organ replacement or repair. It will be used in 3D painting benefiting the art industry impeccably. In the future, this method will also be used in micro casting and microfluidics.
This method will be used in macro and nanochip manufacturing involving high precision, offering efficiency at low cost, which was difficult to perceive before this research. Researchers are currently working on the application of microfabrication chip under different temperatures and materials. This method is expected to be commercialized in two years’ time.