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
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
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.
beams and plates are about same weight as aluminum, but can be produced a
lower cost. ArcelorMital is marketing this light weight steel to
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
nanoparticles applied in a low temperature printing process. This process results in
lower cost solar cells than conventional high temperature manufacturing
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
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.