Friday, May 26, 2006

US Patent 7048999 - Self-Assembled Objects Made From Single Walled Nanotubes

Self-assembly is a nanofabricatrion approach that is fundamentally different from convention approaches to small scale fabrication used in the manufacture of microelectronics and micromechanical devices. Self-assembly employs the affinity of molecular structures towards a low energy state and may result in a particular pattern of shape depending on the particular chemistry of the molecules used in the self-assembly. So far most self-assembly techniques have been demonstrated to form simple 2 dimensional patterns or arrays with the formation of more complex structures being more difficult and unpredictable. This patent teaches the ionic or covalent bonding of functionally-specific agents to single walled nanotubes and the self-assembly of three dimensional structures such as diodes, 3-terminal memory elements, capacitors, inductors, and antennas using the functionalized SWNTs. Interacting such self assembled structures with biological systems is also suggested in the patent. Claim 1 reads:

1. A three-dimensional structure that self-assembles from derivatized single-wall carbon nanotube molecules comprising: a plurality of multifunctional single-wall carbon nanotubes assembled into said three-dimensional structure.

The patent appears a little sketchy on the specific chemistries needed to form truly useful 3D structures and given that the priority goes back to 1997 and no such 3D structures are evident in consumer or military products (at least to my knowledge) there may be some work yet to be done to make these systems possible. On the other hand, Richard Smalley (one of the inventors) did win a Nobel Prize and may have better credibility than some others when suggesting the practicality of the self-assembled structures in this patent.