Nanotechnology in Manufacturing

Various manufacturers are using nanotechnology to make products with improved capabilities or to reduce their manufacturing cost. This page provides examples of how nanotechnology is helping manufacturers today.

A technique called laser shock imprinting  that forms nanoscale metallic shapes such as gears has been demonstrated by researchers at Prudue University.

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a desktop nanofabrication tool. The desktop tool uses beam-pen lithography arrays to create nanoscale structures.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a technique to make AFM tips from diamond. The nanoscale diamond tips last much longer than AFM tips made of silicon and the researchers envision these tips being used to etch or deposit material in nano-manufacturing processes.

Researchers at Rice University have demonstrated that atomically thin sheets of boron nitride can be used as a coating to prevent oxidation. They believe this coating could be used for coating parts that need to be light weight, but work in harsh environments, such as jet engines.

ArcelorMital is producing a kind of steel that contains nanoparticles. This material allows them to make thinner gauge, lighter beams and plates. These steel beams and plates are about same weight as aluminum, but can be produced a lower cost. ArcelorMital is marketing this light weight steel to car manufacturers.

Researchers have produced yarn from carbon nanotubes coated with diamond. They believe this material can be used in thin saw blades that reduce the waste produced when cutting high cost material, such as sawing silicon ingots into wafers for the semiconductor or solar industries.

IMEC and Nantero are developing a memory chip that uses carbon nanotubes. This memory is labeled NRAM for Nanotube-Based Nonvolatile Random Access Memory and is intended to be used in place of high density Flash memory chips.

Nanosolar is building solar cells using semiconductor nanoparticles applied in a low temperature printing process. This process results in lower cost solar cells than conventional high temperature manufacturing processes.

Hewett Packard is working with Hynix Semiconductor to bring a memory device, called a memristor to production. Memristors uses nanowires coated with titanium dioxide and are projected to have better memory density than flash memory.

Taking the longer view researchers are working on developing a method called molecular manufacturing that may someday make the Star Trek replicator a reality. The gadget these folks envision is called a molecular fabricator; this device would use tiny manipulators to position atoms and molecules to build an object as complex as a desktop computer. As shown in this video, researchers believe that raw materials can be used to reproduce almost any inanimate object using this method.

By building an object atom by atom or molecule by molecule, molecular manufacturing, also called molecular nanotechnology, can produce new materials with improved performance over existing materials. For example, an airplane strut must be very strong, but also lightweight. A molecular fabricator could build the strut atom by atom out of carbon, making a lightweight material that is stronger than a diamond. Remember that a diamond is merely a lattice of carbon atoms held together by bonds between the atoms. By placing carbon atoms, one after the other, in the shape of the strut, such a fabricator could create a diamond-like material that is lightweight and stronger than any metal.


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