Thursday, January 27, 2011

US Patent 7875920 - Radially projecting vertical nanowire array

It has been suggested to use nanotubes and nanowires to increase the surface area of electrodes and form capacitors having a high charge storage density. This patent from Samsung teaches a variation of this idea in which an array of nanowires or nanotubes are formed to spread apart from their base in order to more efficiently use the electrode area. Claim 1 reads:   

1. A semiconductor device comprising:

a lower electrode having a plurality of tubes or wires on a semiconductor substrate;

a dielectric layer on the surface of the lower electrode;

an upper electrode on the surface of the dielectric layer,

wherein each of the plurality of tubes or wires radiate outwardly from one another centering on the lower portion of the plurality of tubes or wires.


US Patent 7875912 - Atomic layer deposition of high-k dielectric

One route toward increased scaling of MOSFET electronics is the use of high-k materials to replace the silicon oxide used in current gate dielectrics. This patent from Micron teaches a new dielectric based on Zr(x)Hf(y)Sn(1-x-y)O2 material formed by atomic layer deposition. Claim 1 reads:

1. An electronic device comprising:

an amorphous dielectric layer containing at least one atomic layer deposited dielectric layer including zirconium oxide, hafnium oxide and tin oxide layers in an integrated circuit; and

a conductive layer contacting the dielectric layer.


US Patent 7875884 - Nanostructured hetro-crystalline thin film

Polycrystalline thin film semiconductors may be used to fabricate solar cells and thin film transistors at low cost but introduce increased electron/hole scattering in comparison to single crystal semiconductors. This patent from HP focuses on combining the benefits of single crystalline material with the low cost manufacturing of polycrystalline films by using nanostructured materials. Claim 1 reads:

1. A hetero-crystalline structure comprising:

a first layer of a non-single crystalline material having short range atomic ordering;

a nanostructure of a single crystalline material on the first layer, the nanostructure being integral to a crystallite in the first layer; and

a layer of an insulator material on a surface of the first layer,

the nanostructure being located in an opening through a thickness of the insulator material layer.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

US Patent 7875801 - CNT-enhanced thermoplastic conductive wire

In order to fabricate conductive polymer wires carbon nanotubes has been used as a doping material. However, if the concentration of nanotubes is too high the polymer becomes too viscous for ease in processing. This patent from Boeing teaches a manufacturing solution for CNT polymer wires aiming to avoid this problem.

1. A conductive wire comprising:

a plurality of thermoplastic filaments each comprising a surface; and

a coating material comprising a plurality of carbon nanotubes dispersed therein,

said coating material bonded to said surface of each thermoplastic filament,

said thermoplastic filaments bundled and bonded to each other to form a substantially cylindrical conductor.


US Patent 7875480 - Growing nanowire sensors

This patent from HP includes some basic claims to growing horizontally oriented nanowires arrays in a substrate for use as nanoscale sensors. Claim 1 reads:

1. A method of making a sensor, comprising:

substantially laterally growing at least one nanowire having at least two segments between two electrodes, whereby a junction or connection is formed between the at least two segments; and

establishing a sensing material adjacent to the junction or connection, and adjacent to at least a portion of each of the at least two segments, wherein the sensing material has at least two states.


US Patent 7875351 - Core/shell nanoreactor catalyst

This patent from the Regents of the University of California teaches new types of nanocatalysts such as platinum nanoparticles with a colbolt oxide shell useful to chemical processing. Claim 1 reads:

1. A nanoreactor, comprising:

a nanoreactor shell having a thickness of at least 0.5 nm, said nanoreactor shell enveloping a space, wherein, said nanoreactor shell is not perfectly single crystalline,

further comprising a nanoparticle disposed within the space,

wherein the nanoreactor shell comprises a main group metal, transition metal, alkali metal, or alkaline earth metal.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

US Patent 7875256 - Producing carbon nanocoils

This patent from National Taiwan University teaches a method of increasing the production yield of a type of nanostructure called carbon nanocoils useful to applications in sensors and EM shielding. Claim 1 reads:

1. A method for producing carbon nanocoils, comprising following steps:

(a) providing a substrate;

(b) forming a mixed solution of iron acetate and tin acetate on the surface of the substrate;

(c) heating the substrate and the solution to a predetermined temperature to form a catalyst on the substrate;

(d) placing the substrate and the catalyst into a reaction furnace; and

(e) introducing carbon-based gas and protective gas into the reaction furnace to grow carbon nanocoils on the surface of the catalyst.


US Patent 7875219 - Fabricating NGP supercapacitors

This patent from Nanotek Instruments teaches a process incorporating their Nanoscaled Graphene Platelets (NGPs) for manufacturing supercapacitors. Claim 1 reads:

1. A process for producing meso-porous nanocomposite supercapacitor electrode comprising nano-scaled graphene platelets, said process comprising:

(A) Providing nano-scaled graphene platelets, wherein each of the platelets comprises a single graphene sheet or a stack of multiple graphene sheets, and the platelets have an average thickness no greater than 100 nm;

(B) Combining a binder material, said graphene platelets, and a liquid to form a dispersion;

(C) Forming said dispersion into a desired shape and removing said liquid to produce a binder-platelet mixture; and

(D) Treating said binder material under a desired temperature or radiation environment to convert said binder-platelet mixture into said meso-porous nanocomposite electrode,

wherein said platelets are bonded by said binder and said electrode has electrolyte-accessible pores characterized in that said nanocomposite has a surface area greater than about 100 m2/gm.


US Patent 7874250 - High power nanoswitch for wellbore

This patent from Schlumberger Technology teaches switches used in the high temperature environment of wellbore applications using nanotube field emitters to enable high voltage (>1400 V DC) switching. Claim 1 reads:

1. An apparatus comprising:

a component for use in a wellbore;

a nano-diode coupled to the component to enable activation of the component,

wherein the nano-diode comprises an electrode and nano-emitters formed on the electrode, the nano-emitters to emit electrons.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Memristor Patent ReExams and Prior Art

In the past few years there has been increasing interest in the resistance switching properties of nanoscale thin films to develop a new form of non-volatile memory called ReRAM. This interest was peaked in 2008 based upon a paper published in Nature by researchers from HPLabs which connected experimentally observed resistance switching of TiO2 thin films to a memristor model postulated in the 1970's by Leon Chua and Steve Kang. Companies including HP, Sharp, Unity Semiconductor, and Adestos Technology are projecting product release of different variations of ReRAM/memristor in the 2-3 year timeframe.

There are actually several material examples of memristive materials dating back to the the 1960's such as discussed by the article "Switching Phenomena in Titanium Oxide Thin Films," by Argall. However, some of the companies which have been patenting around the concept of ReRAM and memristors have not adequately considered the prior art. Over the past year I have taken a look at several of the companies and patents related to memristors and ReRAM and have begun to compile information on patents which appear to have issued without considering prior art relevant to 35 USC 102 (novelty) or 35 USC 103 (obviousness). In some extreme cases I have filed Ex Parte ReExams for patents which clearly fail to meet patentability standards.

A copy of the Ex Parte ReExam filings as well as copies of filings of prior art under 37 CFR 1.501 is available at this link. A discussion of the business landscape of memristive electronics is available here.   

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

US Patent 7872407 - Field emission cathode having CNT film

Some of the most basic patents from Till Keesman related to the electron emission properties of carbon nanotubes are currently planned for sale by Ocean Tomo. This patent from Hon Hai Precision (FoxConn) teaches ways to improve stability and efficiency for CNT electron emitting films. Claim 1 reads:

1. A field emission cathode comprising:

a conductive substrate comprising a surface; and

a carbon nanotube film disposed on the surface of the conductive substrate,

wherein the carbon nanotube film comprises a plurality of successive and oriented carbon nanotube bundles parallel to the surface of the conductive substrate, and carbon nanotubes partially extruding from the carbon nanotube film.

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US Patent 7872334 - CNT diodes

In order to transform CNT electronics into commercial devices a necessary requirement will be mechanisms for electrostatic discharge protection compatible with the carbon nanotubes. This patent from IBM teaches one such mechanism based on using both p-type and n-type nanotubes forming diode junctions. Claim 1 reads:

1. A diode, comprising:

said diode comprising an anode and a cathode, said anode comprising a p-type single wall carbon nanotube and said cathode comprising an n-type single wall carbon nanotube, said p-type single wall carbon nanotube in direct and constant physical and electrical contact with said n-type single wall carbon nanotube to form a permanent PN junction;

a first metal pad in physical and electrical contact with said p-type single wall carbon nanotube and a second metal pad in physical and electrical contact with said n-type single wall carbon nanotube; and

wherein said p-type single wall carbon nano-tube has an electron-withdrawing charge transfer complex coating.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

US Patent 7872324 - Suspended nanowire sensor

It has been found that interaction between a substrate and a nanowire can be detrimental to sensing characteristics. In order to avoid such interaction this patent teaches using a suspended nanowire above a trench formed in the substrate. Claim 1 reads:

1. A suspended nanowire sensor, comprising:

first and second sensor electrodes formed on upper portions of a semiconductor substrate and physically separated from each other by a trench in the semiconductor substrate, the depth of the trench being greater than the width;

a nanowire sensor material piece extending from the first sensor electrode to the second sensor electrode and physically suspended between the first and second sensor electrodes; and

an insulation layer between the substrate and the first and second sensor electrodes.


US Patent 7872250 - Nanoporous phase change RAM

This patent from Samsung teaches a way to reduce the reset current of phase change memory by forming nano air pores within a GeSeTe phase change material. Claim 1 reads:

1. A PRAM (phase-change random access memory) comprising:

a switching element; and

a data storage connected to the switching element, the data storage including a first electrode, a second electrode, and a porous PCM (phase-change material) interposed between the first electrode and the second electrode.


US Patent 7871851 - Nanotube/CMOS integration

Nantero has been working on nanotube electronics for the past decade and in the last few years have been focusing on integrating carbon nanotubes with CMOS processes. This patent from RF Nano may offer some useful methods to achieve such integration. Claim 1 reads:

1. A method, comprising:

integrating the formation of nanotube devices into a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) process flow to form nanotube devices in a nanotube region of a substrate and CMOS devices in a CMOS region of the same substrate that involves

(i) protecting the CMOS region from certain nanotube fabrication processes while fabricating the nanotube devices and

(ii) protecting the nanotube region from certain CMOS fabrication processes while fabricating the CMOS devices.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

US Patent 7869686 - Optical fiber amplifier using quantum dots

Doped fibers are used in optical communications to amplify signals without requiring optoelectric conversion. This patent from Alcatel-Lucent teaches a doped optical fiber including quantum dots having a size chosen to select a wavelength for optical pumping and improve the effectiveness of amplification. Claim 1 reads:

1. An amplifying optical fiber comprising a core and a cladding, wherein the core comprises:

a monomode core comprising a dopant and quantum dots, and propagating an optical signal; and

a multimode core surrounding the monomode core, and receiving a pumping signal, wherein the dopant is provided for coupling with the pumping signal to amplify the optical signal, and the quantum dots are used for selecting a wavelength of the pumping signal, and wherein a diameter of the quantum dots is in a range between 2 nm and 5 nm.


US Patent 7868333 - Demetallization of CNTs

The fabrication processes for carbon nanotubes usually results in metallic residue that needs to be removed prior to use of the nanotubes. This patent from E.I. du Pont teaches a purification technique which removes the metallic residue without damaging or oxidizing the nanotubes. Claim 1 reads:

1. A process comprising:

a) forming a first suspension of carbon nanotubes containing metal residues in a first solvent;

b) contacting the first suspension with an active metal agent to form a second suspension of carbon nanotubes containing metal residues;

c) contacting the second suspension with carbon monoxide gas to form carbon monoxide-treated carbon nanotubes; and

d) isolating the carbon monoxide-treated carbon nanotubes;

wherein steps (a), (b) and (c) are performed in an airless atmosphere.


US Patent 7868243 - Nanowire thermoelectric converter

Thermoelectric devices can be implemented with solid-state materials to provide electrically controlled cooling without moving parts. This patent teaches a way to implement thermoelectric cooling on the nanoscale using p-doped and n-doped nanowires. Claim 1 reads:

1. A nanostructure comprising:

a plurality of first nanowires, wherein:

each first nanowire is made of doped semi-conducting material of a first type;

each first nanowire includes an associated second nanowire made of doped semi-conducting material of a second type, wherein one of the first and second type is p-doped and the other is n-doped;

each first nanowire is coaxial with its associated second nanowire and is separated from its associated second nanowire by an insulating material;

each second nanowire has a tip; and

a droplet is disposed on the tip of each second nanowire so as to individually electrically connect the second nanowire to its associated first nanowire.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

US Patent 7867984 - Obesity treatment using nanoparticles

Polymeric nanoparticles have been investigated to facilitate drug delivery for many years. This latest patent from GP Medical teaches using nanoparticle delivery for appetite-suppressing hormones. Claim 1 reads:

1. A method of treating obesity in a subject in need thereof comprising

identifying a subject in need of treatment for obesity and administering bioactive nanoparticles to said subject,

wherein said nanoparticles consist of positively charged chitosan, a negatively charged substrate, and at least one appetite-suppressing agent,

wherein a shell portion of said nanoparticles is dominated by said positively charged chitosan, and

wherein said negatively charged substrate is at least partially neutralized with a portion of said positively charged chitosan in the core portion of said nanoparticles.


US Patent 7867620 - Thermal plate with CNT bundles

The thermal conductivity of carbon nanotubes has been experimentally shown to 50% greater than diamond with a theoretical limit 3x as great as diamond. Intel and Hon Hai Precision (Foxconn) have been developing and patenting a variety of nanotube heat sinks and this patent from Rockwell Collins teaches another variation using CNT bundles for cooling of silicon chips. Claim 1 reads:

1. A composite plate, comprising:

a silicon or silicon carbide wafer with etched through via arrays; and

carbon nanotube bundles, the carbon nanotube bundles grown in the etched through via arrays of the wafer over a carbon nanotube growth substrate with a carbon nanotube growth catalyst in a chemical vapor deposition chamber to form a wafer matrix carbon nanotube composite structure from which the carbon nanotube CNT growth substrate is removed,

wherein a metal layer is deposited over an entire wafer surface, the metal layer being solder.


US Patent 7867616 - SWCNT electrodes for electrochromic glass

This patent from Honda Motor teaches a variation of smart glass using single walled carbon nanotubes to form transparent electrodes. Claim 1 reads:

1. An electrochromic device, the device comprising:

a first transparent electrode,

a second transparent electrode, and

an electrolyte positioned between the first and second transparent electrodes,

wherein the first and second transparent electrodes each comprise substantially the same composition of carbon single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) deposited on a substrate to provide the electrode wherein the electrode is transparent and electrically conductive; and

wherein the device has a visible light transmittance of greater than 70%.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

US Patent 7864560 - Nano-optical memory array

This patent suggests a type of programmable analog array using optical molecules as memory storage elements. Claim 1 reads:   

1. A nano device, comprising:

an army of cells disposed in rows and columns and constructed over a substrate, and

an optical circuit disposed over the substrate,

wherein the optical circuit is formed by nano elements in a self-assembled process, wherein the nano elements include optical storage molecules.


US Patent 7863798 - Nanocrystal powered nanomotor

Attempts to shrink micromechanical motors to the nanoscale are usually confronted with the problems of stiction and reliability. A few approaches have used biomaterials such as DNA and carbon nanotubes to construct actuators which avoid these problems. This patent from Berkeley Lab claims one variation using multiwall carbon nanotubes and a reservoir of indium atoms to construct a linear actuator. Claim 1 reads: 

1. A nanoscale motor, comprising:

an atom reservoir operable to provide atoms;

a nanoparticle ram coupled to the atom reservoir and operable to receive the atoms from the atom reservoir;

a substrate coupling the atom reservoir to the nanoparticle ram;

a nanolever coupled to the nanoparticle ram, the nanolever operable to move in response to the nanoparticle ram receiving the atoms from the atom reservoir; and

a voltage source electrically coupled to the substrate and operable to deliver reversible positive and negative voltages to electrical connections of the motor, the reversible positive and negative voltages operable to cause reciprocal movement of the nanolever.


US Patent 7863625 - Nanocrystal coated nanowire

This patent from HP teaches doping semiconductor nanowires to manufacture LEDs and light sensors. Claim 1 reads:

1. A nanowire (100) comprising:

a semiconductor core (102) including one of p-type conductivity and n-type conductivity;

an intermediate semiconductor region (104) surrounding the core including one of an intrinsic semiconductor material and a lightly doped semiconductor material;

a semiconductor outer region (106) including the other of n-type conductivity and p-type conductivity at least partially surrounding the intermediate semiconductor region; and

nanocrystals (108,110) disposed on the surface of the outer region, wherein the core, intrinsic region, and outer region are concentric and coaxial, and the nanocrystals provide electron-conduction paths along the length of the nanowire and spaces between the nanocrystals allow light to penetrate into and to be emitted from the semiconductor regions.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

US Patent 7863258 - Nanoparticle cancer treatment

This patent teaches using nanoparticles for anti-cancer drug delivery in which chitosan enhances absorption. Claim 1 reads:

1. A method of treating a cancer in an animal subject comprising

administering nanoparticles consisting of an antineoplastic drug or anti-cancer therapeutic agent in effective amount to treat said cancer, positively charged chitosan, and a negatively charged substrate,

wherein a surface of said nanoparticles is dominated by the positively charged chitosan.

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US Patent 7862766 - Electron beam functionalization of nanoscale fibers

Functionalization of nanotube films is used to strengthen the films but can be time consuming using conventional techniques. This patent from Florida State University Research Foundation teaches a more rapid approach using electron beam irradiation. Claim 1 reads:

1. A method of functionalizing a nanoscale fiber film material, comprising the steps of:

(a) providing a nanoscale fiber film material which comprises a plurality of nanoscale fibers; and

(b) irradiating the nanoscale fiber film material with a controlled amount of radiation, wherein the step of irradiating the nanoscale fiber film material comprises applying an electron beam to the nanoscale fiber film,

wherein the electron beam applies a dose of electrons in the range from about 10 ×1015 to about 300×1015 e/cm2.


US Patent 7862765 - Injection molding CNTs

Injection molding is a common technique used in forming plastic parts for a variety of industries. This patent from Semes Co. teaches a method of injection molding using carbon nanotubes to form plastic devices which can block electromagnetic waves and disperse static electricity. Claim 1 reads:

1. A method of synthesizing a conductive composite, the method comprising:

injecting pellets, which were created by extruding carbon nanotubes CNTs and polymers, into an injection-molding machine and injection-molding the pellets by using the injection-molding machine; and

applying an electric field to the pellets which are being injection-molded by the injection-molding machine so as to induce the CNTs in a composite into which the pellets are injection-molded to have an isotropic orientation.


US Patent 7862624 - Nanoparticles on fabric or textile

The addition of metal nanoparticles to clothing can add features of odor resistance, reduced discoloration, and improved fabric strength. This patent also teaches using such metal nanoparticles in fabric to form materials of electronic or photovoltaic devices. Claim 1 reads:

1. A wash durable material, comprising:

a substrate having strands with void spaces inside the strands; and

nano-particles inside the strands filling at least a part of the void with one or more projections from the void spaces through the strands on the substrate,

wherein the nano-particles are used with one or more of a metal, a solar cell compound, an interconnect compound, antenna compound, an electronic compound.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Top Ten Nanotechnology Patents of 2010

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 7657447 - Nanomaterial insurance (Hartford Fire Insurance Company)

This is one of the few (perhaps only) business method patents specifically directed to nanotechnology.

#9 - US Patent 7662288 - Nanobubble water treatment (Sharp)

As the world population and industrial production continue to increase clean water will become a bigger issue. This patent includes basic claims toward water treatment using nanobubbles.

#8 - US Patent 7799849 - Self-healing nanomaterial (Intel)

This patent includes basic claims to packaging materials with self-repair features provided by encapsulated nanoparticles.

#7 - US Patent 7767184 - Nanocrystalline diamond film (Nanotech LLC)

This patent has early priority (2003) and includes basic claims to high purity nanocrystal diamond films to provide scratch and wear resistant coatings.

#6 - US Patent 7858185 - High purity nanotube fabric (Nantero, Inc.)

This is one several basic patents from Nantero including claims to nanotube fabrics. The specific claims of this patent may be critical to integrating nanotubes with CMOS electronics.

#5 - US Patent 7675766 - Ion conductor mem-resistor (Axon Technologies Corporation)

In 2008 HP published a paper in Nature on a new nanoscale circuit element called a memristor which couples ionic and electronic effects. This patent from Axon Technologies has priority from 2000 and includes some earlier claims to ion conductor switches and memory which appears to be under development by start-ups such as Adesto Technologies and 4DS.

#4 - US Patent 7666708 - Uniform nanowire growth (Harvard)

This is one of the more basic patents from the Lieber Research Group of Harvard having priority going back to 2000 and including claims covering uniform diameter nanowires.

#3 - US Patent 7790285 - Nano-scaled graphene platelets (Nanotek Instruments, Inc.)

This patent from Nanotek Instruments includes basic claims to a new type of carbon nanomaterial with potential to outperform carbon nanotubes in energy storage technologies (e.g. batteries, fuel cells).

#2 - US Patent 7795677 - Nanowire SOI FET (IBM)

This patent from IBM represents one of the more realistic designs for nanowire-based transistors and includes some basic claims to the design.

#1 - US Patent 7683359 - Nanostructured silicon lithium battery  (Nexeon Ltd.)

Nexeon Ltd. has produced a world record capacity rechargeable battery and this is perhaps their most basic patent.