Tuesday, May 30, 2006

US Patent 7051945 - Nanowire Phase Shifter


Nanosys, the owner of this patent, is one of a handful of promising new companies focusing on nanoelectronics. This company seems to realize that it would be a bad strategy to try to use nanoelectronics to displace bulk silicon electronics on the basis of size alone. Instead, Nanosys is focusing on the use of nanomaterials to do what silicon wafers can't do - bend. Flexible displays, RFID labels, and other upcoming applications require semiconductor materials capable of being formed on flexible and relatively large substrates. However, bulk silicon wafers are rigid and fragile and thus not ideally suitable for such applications. Nanosys proposes using nanowire films to fill the requirements of these new applications. This particular patent focuses on a variable phase shifter (a component of RFID) made using such nanowire films. Claim 1 reads:

1. An adjustable phase shifter formed on a substrate, comprising: a conductor line on the substrate that includes a first conductive segment and a second conductive segment; a thin film of nanowires formed on the substrate in electrical contact with said first conductive segment and said second conductive segment; and a plurality of gate contacts in electrical contact with said thin film of nanowires and positioned between said first conductive segment and said second conductive segment; wherein a phase of an electrical signal transmitted through said conductor line is adjusted by changing a voltage applied to at least one gate contact of the plurality of gate contacts.

Note to patent attorneys- one of the original claims presented for this patent included the phrase "standard semiconductor fabrication processes." The Examiner applied 35 USC 112 2nd paragraph against this claim on the grounds that "standard semiconductor fabrication processes" change too rapidly for this term to have definiteness.