Let's talk about Nanowire patents
50k Nanowire patents & probes in your brain
If you're interested in nanotech, you will probably have heard a lot about nanowires recently, and this week they hit the news as researchers announced new findings relating to their use in batteries, sensors, and probes.
Nanowires are tiny filamentary rods, similar to conventional wires but with a diameter of just nanometers. They are built up, molecule by molecule, from materials including semiconducting metal oxides, metals, or carbon nanotubes. Nanowires are so prized by researchers and engineers because due to their enormous surface area relative to their size, they can exhibit unique thermal, chemical, electronic, optical, or mechanical properties.
Nanowires Patents go Haywire
Patent activity has rocketed in all categories relating to nanotechnology, with a significant and sustained increase in the number of patents referencing nanowires in particular. Since 2006, over 33,000 patents have been filed which reference nanowires, and over 13,000 new patents have been granted. There are now over 50,000 patents in total which reference this nanomaterial.
While the largest number of these patents (nearly 20% of the total) are fled under H01L (Semiconductor devices; electric solid state devices), their potential uses and applications are endless.
From "Conversion of chemical to electrical energy" (H01B) to "Electric digital data processing" (G06F) and "Layered products" (B32B), nanowires are well on their way to becoming part of everyday life, from batteries, to specialist fabrics, and even inside the human body.
Nanowire probes… in your brain
Harvard University plans nanowire probes for biological tissue
Harvard University filed a new patent yesterday (2oth October 2016) for “Nanoscale wire probes for the brain and other applications” (US2010302682A1). If you’re squeamish, you may want to avoid this one.
The patent abstract describes “probes comprising nanoscale wires for use in determining properties such as electrical and/or chemical properties, e.g., for insertion into biological tissue, such as the brain.”
One of the more interesting patent diagrams we've seen
The patent application describes how the nanoscale probes are manufactured from flexible materials such as polymers and electrical components. The probes are designed to be cooled to below freezing point to allow them to harden, before insertion into biological tissue, such as the brain.
This will allow medical researchers to collect data and monitor electric signals from within the tissue of the brain in a way that hasn’t previously been possible.
Nanowires as Tiny Compasses
Nanowire sensors are improving atomic force microscopes
This week, physicists at the University of Basel an EPF Lausanne described how their research had shown that nanowires could be used as sensors in a new kind of atomic force microscope (AFM).
One of the mechanical properties of nanowires means that they vibrate along two perpendicular axes at a very similar frequency. By measuring changes in these vibrations, researchers found that they could use the nanowires to measure the direction and force of the forces being acted upon them.
Nanowire solar cells break records
TU Eindhoven brings nano solar cells closer to commercialization
Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology earned themselves a new world record for the efficiency of nanowire-based solar cells: 17.8%. Nanowire solar cells are made up of a forest of vertical wires, each approx. 200 nanometres thick.
The University press release states that theoretically, the limit for nanowire solar cells is 46% efficiency, far higher than that for flat layered solar cells (34%). However, researchers estimate that in order to be commercially viable, a yield of around 25% is required. In order to reduce costs, production is likely to move from the rare indium phosphide to semiconductor silicon.
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