Based on a sort by claim breadth of 2,325 US patents involving methods of making or processing nanostructures, these are the top 10 results:
1. US Patent 6139919 - University of Kentucky, priority June 19, 1999
Claim 1- "A method of doping carbon nanotubes, comprising: soaking said carbon nanotubes in molten iodine in a vessel."
2. US Patent 6500497 - Data Storage Institute, priority October 1, 2001
Claim 1- "A method of converting a potentially magnetic material into a magnetic patterned nanostructure by using mask-controlled local phase transition."
3. US Patent 6905667 - Zyvex Corporation/Univ. of Pittsburgh, priority May 2, 2002
Claim 1- " A method of functionalizing a nanotube, said method comprising: noncovalently bonding a polymer comprising at least one functional group with a nanotube in a non- wrapping fashion."
4. US Patent 6837928 - Stanford University, priority August 30, 2001
Claim 1- "A method for manufacturing a carbon nanotube device, the method comprising applying an electric field and aligning a carbon nanotube with the electric field."
5. US Patent 6041600 - Silverbrook Research, priority July 15, 1997
Claim 1 - "A method of constructing one or more electrically conductive portions within a substantially non-conductive material comprising embedding quantum wires of a substantially conductive material within said portions."
6. US Patent 6841139 - Rice University, priority Sept.18,1998
Claim 1 - "A method for derivatizing a single wall carbon nanotube comprising the step of covalently bonding substituents to carbon atoms on a sidewall of the single wall carbon nanotube."
7. US Patent 6368406 - Chrysalis Technologies Incorporated, priority Sept.13, 2000
Claim 1 - "A method of making intermetallic nanoparticles comprising subjecting a starting material to laser energy so as to form a vapor and condensing the vapor so as to form intermetallic nanoparticles."
8. US Patent 6986876 - Rice University, priority March 7, 1997
Claim 1 - "A method of forming a macroscopic molecular array of tubular carbon molecules, said method comprising the step of assembling subarrays of at least about 1,000,000 single-wall carbon nanotubes into a composite array."
9. US Patent 6846565 - University of Texas, priority July 2, 2001
Claim 1 - "A method of forming nanoparticles comprising heating a mixture of a Group IV metal organometallic precursor and a capping agent at a temperature wherein the precursor decomposes, and the nanoparticles are formed."
10. US Patent 6423583 - IBM, priority January 3, 2001
Claim 1 - "A method for forming a device comprising the steps of: providing a substrate; providing a plurality of nanotubes in contact with the substrate; and selectively breaking a nanotube using an electrical current."
Next week - Top ten broadest US nanotechnology patents in biological/medical applications.