Friday, October 05, 2007

US Patent 7276432 - Artificial atom fiber

Artificial atoms are basically nanocrystals/quantum dots that confine multiple electrons in a nanoscale volume so as to replicate the chemical properties of atoms. By pumping in or removing electrons to such artificial atoms the chemical properties which the artificial atoms replicate can be changed. This patent claims a method of programming such artificial atoms in a bulk material. Claim 1 reads:

1. A method for real-time control of dopants in the interior of a bulk material, after a time of initial manufacture, the method comprising carrying energy through at least one conduit in the bulk material to a plurality of confinement regions; confining one or more charge carriers within each of the plurality of confinement regions in the bulk material to form respective artificial atoms that have a doping effect upon the bulk material; controlling the energy carried to the plurality of confinement regions; and adjusting an energy level or quantity of the one or more charge carriers forming each respective artificial atom in real time; to alter the doping effect on the bulk material.

While artificial atoms formed on a planar substrate were known to the prior art the innovation from this patent seems to be the inclusion of the artificial atoms within a bulk material such as within a fiber. However, this may be fairly difficult to manufacture since most quantum dot fabrication and electrical wire patterning methods are based on semiconductor processing methods that are limited to planar processing. Also, considering that one of the inventors (Wil McCarthy) is a science fiction writer and one of his novels (The Wellstone) served as the inspiration for this technology it may not be well grounded in current scientific or technological capabilities. There are some companies such as Ball Semiconductor working on non-planar processes and various research is being done on self assembly methods to produce 3D wiring networks within bulk materials however the patent does not really seem to teach or provide adequate direction on how to integrate these features to enable one of ordinary skill in the art to make or use the invention.