Embryonic stem (ES) cell differentiation in specific cell lineages is a major issue in cell biology particularly in regenerative medicine. Differentiation is usually achieved by using biochemical factors and it is not clear whether mechanical properties of the substrate over which cells are grown can affect proliferation and differentiation. Therefore, we produced patterns in polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) consisting of groove and pillar arrays of sub-micrometric lateral resolution as substrates for cell cultures. We analyzed the effect of different nanostructures on differentiation of ES-derived neuronal precursors into neuronal lineage without adding biochemical factors. Neuronal precursors adhered on PDMS more effectively than on glass coverslips. We demonstrated that neuronal yield was enhanced by increasing pillars height from 35 to 400 nm. On higher pillar neuronal differentiation reaches ∼80% 96 h after plating and the largest differentiation enhancement of pillars over flat PDMS was observed during the first 6 h of culture. We conclude that PDMS nanopillars accelerate and increase neuronal differentiation. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2011;108: 2736–2746. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.