Thursday, May 18, 2006

US Patent 7045811-Artificial Atom Network Using Intersecting Nanowires

The technology of this patent is somewhat similar to a system that Hewlett Packard is working on to enable molecular electronics. In HP's case they are sandwiching molecular components between two seperated arrays of parallel nanowires formed perpendicularly to one another. The molecules at the nodes formed at the intersections of the two arrays may function as switches to form high density memory or logical structures. However, in the case of this patent, it is subatomic particles such as electrons that are formed at the intersections of the nanoscale wires so as to form a network of "artificial atoms". Claim 1 reads:

1. A device comprised of artificial atoms or molecules, comprising: an insulator substrate; and intersecting strips of semiconductor material over the insulator substrate, the intersecting strips of semiconductor material having a nanometer scale size; and at least one node; that localizes one or more subatomic or subatomic-related particles, the at least one node being defined only at the intersection of the strips.

"Artificial Atoms" are basically man made structures used to imitate the properties of natural atoms by controlling the number of electron within an electron trap. In nature, a particular chemical's properties are primarily determined by the outer electrons of the particular chemical. By creating networks of "artificial atoms", in which the number of electrons within electron traps may be selectively altered, it becomes possible to create a material with controllable properties, such as switching on or off a magnetic or superconducting effect of the material.

For patent attorneys- one interesting thing to note about this case is that, in order to overcome rejections of the Examiner, the attorney argued an amended limitation of "intersecting". Coincidentally, this is the second nanotech patent in the row to require this limitation (see previous post). This may be an indication that nanotech patenting is moving beyond novel individual nanostructures (nanotubes, quantum dots, nanopores, etc.) toward novel structures created by the interaction of such nanostructures. Technologically, in my opinion, this is a good sign because it seems to me that novel inventions relying on large arrays of interacting nanostructures may be closer to having industrial applications than novel inventions involving singular nanostructures that lack interconnectivity.

Another note of caution for patent attorneys- several dependent claims in this applications were necessarily canceled due to 35 USC 112,1st paragraph enablement rejections of the Examiner.