Recently, Zhu and his colleagues have demonstrated that chatter can be put to good use and have exploited the effect to generate well-defined nanopatterns. The researchers use an ultrasonication diamond knife to intentionally invoke chatter during microtomy sectioning, which makes the process manageable.

As shown in the image, the oscillatory vibration of the cutting knife generates uniform, wavy patterns on both thin sections and block surfaces. Patterning can be fine-tuned by adjusting cutting speed and oscillation frequency.

The smallest structure made by this method was 36 nm and it is very easy to increase the size to the micrometre level. The technique is applicable to a variety of materials with suitable viscoelastic properties. In addition, the process allows wavy patterns to be fabricated on slightly curved surfaces, which is difficult or infeasible to achieve by conventional photolithography.

To summarize, this simple, one-step non-lithographic "cutting-edge" technology is robust and clean, involves no chemicals, and is easy to scale up for long-range and large-area patterning.

The researchers presented their work in the journal Nanotechnology.