Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Ten Nanotechnology Patents of 2011

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

#10 - US Patent 7921384 - Nanoscale FPGA for nanorobotics (Neal Soloman)

I am dubious of the enablement of most "nanorobot" related patents but they can be interesting reading even if they are nonsense. 

#9 - US Patent 8062407 - Nano-manufacture using household microwave (Northwest Missouri State University )

This patent warrants the garage inventor of the year award for developing a cheap way to synthesize silver nanoparticles.

#8 - US Patent 8057776  - Carbon nanotube manufacture from microalgae (United Arab Emirates University)

This patent represents the first teaching (to my knowledge) of using biomaterial to create carbon nanotubes. I am not sure how useful this will be but the inventor deserves an A+ for creativity.

 #7 - US Patent 7922795 - Nanoscale semiconductor membrane (University of Rochester)

This patent includes some basic claims for semiconductor membranes which may be critical to the development of hydrogen-permeable membranes for fuel cells and pressure sensors.

#6 - US Patent 8060217 - Nanowire neural interface (Industry-Academic Cooperation Foundation)

Neural interfaces are an emerging technology but are limited by the damage done due to electrical signals applied to nerve cells. The teachings of this patent may contribute to a solution which can open up a whole new industry.

#5 - US Patent 8068624 - CNT thermoacoustic sound generator (Foxconn)

This is one of numerous basic patents issued this year to Hon Hai Precision (Foxconn) covering a newly discovered application of carbon nanotubes which may represent one of the most significant developments in the area of sound production in the last 100 years enabling sound without magnetic fields or vibration.

#4 - US Patent 8063448 - Memresistor FinFET (Infineon Technologies)

Two of the leading trends in semiconductor electronics are the use of multi-gate transistor structures and the use of thin film memory resistor materials for memory cells (e.g. phase change memory, ReRAM). this patent includes some basic claims combining these concepts.

#3 - US Patent 8053782 - Graphene phototransistor (IBM)

The 2010 Nobel Prize went to research in the new nanomaterial graphene and inventions based on graphene are in their infancy. This patent includes some basic claims for graphene used in photodetectors.

#2 - US Patent 7902541 - Strained nanowire FET (IBM)

Semiconductor nanowire technology is becoming more sophisticated and IBM is leading the way in manufacturing these materials into future generation high-speed transistors.

#1 - US Patent 8066831 - Nanoenergetic power generation (The Curators of the University of Missouri)

New solutions for energy production are perhaps the key applications for nanomaterials. This patent from the Gangopadhyay Research Group represents one of the most innovative techniques I have yet heard of for the use of nanomaterials in power generation for portable devices.