Light Splash: Transparent pipes shape microstructures

1:27pm, February 12, 2003

A little high-tech plumbing and colored water may change how engineers make miniaturized fluid-carrying structures.

A team at the University of Washington in Seattle has added a new twist to the light-blocking patterns, or photomasks, used like stencils in microchip manufacturing. They've invented photomasks containing tiny, transparent pipes into which the engineers have injected dyes that dim the ultraviolet (UV) radiation passing through.

Where less UV light penetrates the photomask, there's less breakdown of the photosensitive coatings, called photoresists, that cover chips during processing. The coating left behind forms a structure of varying heights that can serve as a mold.

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