Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Ten Nanotechnology Patents of 2008

Here is a list of the U.S. nanotechnology patents issued over the past year that appear to me to be the most commercially valuable and/or interesting:

#10 - US Patent 7,460,669 - 2-bit Encoding Using a Single Photon (Toshiba)

This patent is key to quantum cryptography by providing the foundations for multi-bit state encoding of data in individual photons. Developments in integrated optoelectronics in the past decade may begin to make this technology competitive with standard encryption in the next decade.

#9 - US Patent 7,359,888 - Molecular Junction Neural Network (Hewlett-Packard)

Simulation of neural networks are commonplace using software, however this patent teaches a system using molecular junctions to emulate the function of neural networks which has the potential to provide an entirely new type of neuromorphic computing.

#8 - US Patent 7,374,649 - DNA Sorting of Carbon Nanotubes (E.I. du Pont)

One of the critical problems of single walled nanotube processing is the sorting of the nanotubes between metallic and semiconducting types as well as between different diameter tubes. This patent teaches how DNA can be used to solve the problem.

#7 - US Patent 7,321,188 - Carbon Nanotube Yarn Filament for Light Bulb (Hon Hai Precision)

The first commercially successful light bulb built by Thomas Edison was based on carbonized fibers. It was not too long after that that tungsten came along as an improved filament but this patent may put carbon back in play based on carbon nanotube yarns which are suggested to have better efficiency for less power consumption.

#6 - US Patent 7,321,714 - Nanoparticulate Seal for Integrated Circuits (ERS Company)

This patent from Dr. Ephraim Suhir is very basic to an entirely new form of electronics packaging and teaches a lightweight moisture-resistant nanoparticulate material for protecting integrated circuits.

#5 - US Patent 7,468,097 - Hydrogen Production from Greenhouse Gas Saturated Nanotubes (University of North Texas)

This patent seems to have the potential to simultaneously solve 3 major technological problems in one blow - global warming, production of hydrogen for fuel cells, and nanotube mass production.

#4 - US Patent 7,390,477 - Ultrapure Carbon Nanotubes (William Marsh Rice University)

Based on a series of continuations going back to 1997 this patent includes basic claims to high purity (99%) nanotube compositions. Unlike many earlier patents based on the early research of Rice this patent is not limited to the single walled variety of nanotube and may be applicable to multiwall or other nanotube variations.

#3 - US Patent 7,371,457 - Core/Shell Optical Nanoparticles (William Marsh Rice University)

There has been much development in the past few years in metal/dielectric nanoparticles for applications in molecular spectroscopy methods such as SERS. This appears to be the basic patent covering many of these methods with priority going back to 1997.

#2 - US Patent 7,449,133 - Transparent Graphene (Unidym)

For several years there has been a search for an improved material for transparent electrodes in display and touch screen applications due to the brittle nature and expense in manufacturing current materials. Graphene flakes provide a very attractive alternative and this patent seems to be basic to transparent graphene electrodes.

#1 - US Patent 7,443,711 - Nanoscale Memristor (Hewlett-Packard)

While the development of electronics in the last 60 years has been impressive, almost all of the developments have been based on the same basic building blocks - resistors, capacitors, and transistors. This patent is basic to a new fundamental circuit element called a "memristor" which could possibly provide a new avenue of electronics beyond the transistor. Already there are plans by HP to implement memristors in a new form of non-volatile memory which does not require transistors for the memory cells and is thus capable of deep nanoscale resolutions competitive with flash memory.