The supported monolayer of Au that accompanies alkanethiolate molecules removed by polymer stamps during chemical lift-off lithography is a scarcely studied hybrid material. We show that these Au–alkanethiolate layers on poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) are transparent, functional, hybrid interfaces that can be patterned over nanometer, micrometer, and millimeter length scales. Unlike other ultrathin Au films and nanoparticles, lifted-off Au–alkanethiolate thin films lack a measurable optical signature. We therefore devised fabrication, characterization, and simulation strategies by which to interrogate the nanoscale structure, chemical functionality, stoichiometry, and spectral signature of the supported Au–thiolate layers. The patterning of these layers laterally encodes their functionality, as demonstrated by a fluorescence-based approach that relies on dye-labeled complementary DNA hybridization. Supported thin Au films can be patterned via features on PDMS stamps (controlled contact), using patterned Au substrates prior to lift-off (e.g., selective wet etching), or by patterning alkanethiols on Au substrates to be reactive in selected regions but not others (controlled reactivity). In all cases, the regions containing Au–alkanethiolate layers have a sub-nanometer apparent height, which was found to be consistent with molecular dynamics simulations that predicted the removal of no more than 1.5 Au atoms per thiol, thus presenting a monolayer-like structure.
We designed and fabricated large arrays of polymer pens having sub-20 nm tips to perform chemical lift-off lithography (CLL). As such, we developed a hybrid patterning strategy called polymer-pen chemical lift-off lithography (PPCLL). We demonstrated PPCLL patterning using pyramidal and v-shaped polymer-pen arrays. Associated simulations revealed a nanometer-scale quadratic relationship between contact line widths of the polymer pens and two other variables: polymer-pen base line widths and vertical compression distances. We devised a stamp support system consisting of interspersed arrays of flat-tipped polymer pens that are taller than all other sharp-tipped polymer pens. These supports partially or fully offset stamp weights thereby also serving as a leveling system. We investigated a series of v-shaped polymer pens with known height differences to control relative vertical positions of each polymer pen precisely at the sub-20 nm scale mimicking a high-precision scanning stage. In doing so, we obtained linear-array patterns of alkanethiols with sub-50 nm to sub-500 nm line widths and minimum sub-20 nm line width tunable increments. The CLL pattern line widths were in agreement with those predicted by simulations. Our results suggest that through informed design of a stamp support system and tuning of polymer-pen base widths, throughput can be increased by eliminating the need for a scanning stage system in PPCLL without sacrificing precision. To demonstrate functional microarrays patterned by PPCLL, we inserted probe DNA into PPCLL patterns and observed hybridization by complementary target sequences.