Nano-patterning materials and surfaces can add unique functionalities and properties which cannot be obtained in bulk or micro-structured materials. Examples range from hetro-epitaxy of semiconductor nano-wires to guiding cell expression and growth on medical implants. 
Due to the cost and throughput requirements conventional nano-patterning techniques such as deep UV lithography (cost and flat substrate demands) and electron-beam lithography (cost, throughput) are not an option. Self-assembly techniques are being considered for IC manufacturing, but require nano-sized guiding patterns, which have to be fabricated in any case. Additionally, the self-assembly process is highly sensitive to the environment and layer thickness, which is difficult to control on non-flat surfaces such as PV silicon wafers or III/V substrates. Laser interference lithography can achieve wafer scale periodic patterns, but is limited by the throughput due to intensity of the laser at the pinhole and only regular patterns are possible where the pattern fill fraction cannot be chosen freely due to the interference condition.
Nanoimprint lithography (NIL) is a promising technology for the cost effective fabrication of sub-micron and nano-patterns on large areas. The challenges for NIL are related to the technique being a contact method where a stamp which holds the patterns is required to be brought into intimate contact with the surface of the product. In NIL a strong distinction is made between the type of stamp used, either rigid or soft. Rigid stamps are made from patterned silicon, silica or plastic foils and are capable of sub-10nm resolution and wafer scale patterning. All these materials behave similar at the micro- to nm scale and require high pressures (5 – 50 Bar) to enable conformal contact to be made on wafer scales. Real world conditions such as substrate bow and particle contaminants complicate the use of rigid stamps for wafer scale areas, reducing stamp lifetime and yield.
Soft stamps, usually based on silicone rubber, behave fundamentally different compared to rigid stamps on the macro-, micro- and nanometer level. The main limitation of traditional silicones is that they are too soft to support sub-micron features against surface tension based stamp deformation and collapse  and handling a soft stamp to achieve accurate feature placement on wafer scales to allow overlay alignment with sub-100nm overlay accuracy.