Lithography enables the printing of complex patterns on many different surfaces

Optical and electron beam lithography techniques are used to create nano-patterned electronic devices – with features smaller than the size of a speck of dust.

Screen sample - stained glass window effect
The origins of lithography – where ink is repelled by a grease – can be traced back to the 10th century and screen printing.
Silicon wafer with chips in UV lighting
Electron beam lithography makes it possible to create nanometre structures - smaller than the diameter of a strand of DNA.
An eastern firefly (Photinus pyralis) on the wing, early evening

Nature’s glow sticks

Many sea creatures and insects – including the firefly or glow worm – produce and radiate light through bioluminescence which occurs when chemical compounds mix together. Light is controlled in a particular pattern to attract mates and prey - and avoid predators. Large groups of fireflies can sometimes be seen flashing in unison.

Optical lithography and integrated circuits

Optical lithography (photolithography) involves the use of a photosensitive polymer - a laser or shadow mask can be used to ‘write’ a pattern. It is commonly used to make integrated circuits (ICs).

How are integrated circuits used?

The applications of integrated circuits include:

  • Computers
  • Mobile phones
  • Televisions
  • Memory devices
  • Sensors in cameras
Brain-on-a-chip photograph

Brain-on-a-chip to revolutionise computing power

Loughborough scientists are exploring how neurons – the brain’s information processors – can be harnessed to supercharge computers’ ability to learn while dramatically cutting energy use. The Neu-ChiP project will layer networks of stem cells resembling the human cortex onto microchips and then stimulate the cells by firing changing patterns of light beams at them.

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Related research at Loughborough

A variety of research areas benefit from greater control of light or the use of lithography.