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Nanofabrication / nanomanufacturing

Nanofabrication is the essential bridge between the discoveries of the nanosciences and real-world nanotechnology products.

Partly based on: NanoFabNet, 2021, NanoFabNet, 2021a, and
© 2021 by NanoFabNet and SUSNANOFAB

Nanofabrication has the potential to address major socio-economic challenges, from better and affordable health care to cleaner energy and transports, improved consumer goods and higher living standards. It encompasses many processes from the design, manipulation and control of matter at the nanoscale to the manufacture of nanoscale materials, nanostructures, components, devices and complex systems that exploit the unique physical and chemical phenomena that occur at these smaller scales, such as quantum and surface effects. The dimensional scale for nanofabrication is typically 1 to 100 nm. It is usually at this sub-micron scale that unusual or improved material behaviour is observed, which can be exploited for production of multifunctional devices with unique properties for a vast range of applications, thus having a profound impact on a multitude of industrial sectors. The vast potential of nanofabrication is undeniable, and it must be optimized.

The international standard ISO/TS 80004-8 Nanotechnologies -Vocabulary - Part 8: Nanomanufacturing processes makes an inventory of the different processes, which demonstrates the great diversity of existing approaches, each with their own specificities. The ISO/TS 80004-8 differentiates also between the terms “nanofabrication” and “nanomanufacturing” by arguing that nanomanufacturing encompasses a broader range of processes than does nanofabrication, as it takes into account all nanofabrication techniques, as well as techniques associated with materials processing and chemical synthesis. In the following, however, the terms nanofabrication and nanomanufacturing will be used interchangeably.

Top-down vs. bottom-up Figure 1. Representation of the nanofabrication approaches: “top-down” versus “bottom-up” (Rawat, 2015).

To produce nanoscale structures via nanofabrication approaches, two main routes can be taken (see Figure 1). A “top-down” approach, which starts from micro-systems and miniaturises them to a nanoscale (as a carver would go from a block of stone to its final sculpture), whereas a “bottom-up” approach starts from atoms or molecular blocks to build nano-scale structures (as a mason would build a wall). The bottom-up approach is, for the moment, less common but allows more control over the nanoparticles production.

Sustainable nanofabrication

As nanofabrication and sustainability are quite young fields, the cross-over between them is even more recent. By searching both combined terms with an online search engine, the first results found are for European projects such as SusNanoFab and NanoFabNet showing that this subject is particularly on the rise. The main issues of sustainable nanofabrication were highlighted by the stakeholders during the 1st NanoFabNet Development Workshop (DW), by ranking categories on their importance on this subject. The categories considered to be of high importance are:

  • metrology/characterisation in association with the production processes
  • sustainability, training and standardisation


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