Fabrication of metal nanoparticle arrays by controlled decomposition of polymer particles

We report a novel fabrication method for ordered arrays of metal nanoparticles that exploits the uniform arrangement of polymer beads deposited as close-packed monolayers. In contrast to colloidal lithography that applies particles as masks, we used thermal decomposition of the metal-covered particles to precisely define metal structures. Large arrays of noble metal (Au, Ag, Pt) nanoparticles were produced in a three-step process on silicon, fused silica and sapphire substrates, demonstrating the generality of this approach. Polystyrene spheres with diameters ranging between 110 nm and 1 µm were convectively assembled into crystalline monolayers, coated with metal and annealed in a resistive furnace or using an ethanol flame. The thermal decomposition of the polymer microspheres converted the metal layer into particles arranged in hexagonal arrays that preserved the order of the original monolayer. Both the particle size and the interparticle distance were adjusted via the thickness of the metal coating and the sphere diameter, respectively.