Pens "that write with light" could help to make optoelectronics production faster and cheaper, according to a study in Nature Nanotechnology.
A team from Northwestern University looked into the applications of beam-pen lithography (BPL), a nanofabrication technology.
It is hoped that arrays of potentially millions of pens within a few square centimetres of space could allow for high-throughput nanofabrication using beams of light.
During their test, the team used BPL with 15,000 pens to sketch out the Chicago skyline in 182 dots of half a micron in diameter.
It took about half an hour to complete the task - unlike existing versions of the technology which can only conduct small-scale production at low throughput rates.
As well as optoelectronics manufacture, it is hoped that large-scale BPL could lower costs and speed up production of medical diagnostics and circuit prototypes.
Nature Nanotechnology adopts both a top-down and bottom-up approach to devices and systems that control materials on the macromolecular, molecular and atomic scale.