Nanotech Patents News: Tiny Pipettes, Magnetic Stents, and a Printed Solar Panel

Nanotech Goes Global

A quick look at patents filed under IPC B82Y reveals that centres of nanotech innovation are now truly global. China, South Korea and the USA are battling to lead the charge, but IPC B82Y doesn't tell the whole story - many nanotech patents are hidden away in other classifcation codes, so keeping track of the bigger picture poses a real problem for IP managers and researchers. 

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 The World's Smallest Pipette?

IBM is granted patent CN104321271B – “Microfluidic surface treatment apparatus and method”

Grant Date: 12th October 2016

The patent describes what is essentially a nano pipette or printer, with an outlet of between 0.5 to 1000 microns. The device has a cantilevered head with a probe tip.

The patent document hints at possible use for the “microfluidic surface treatment apparatus”, stating that the treatment structure is preferably “thermally or electrically energized in order to enable a chemical reaction to occur at the surface. The reaction may also be a catalytic reaction using, for example, platinum or other metals.” The apparatus includes circuitry and feedback controls to measure electrical responses.

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A figure from IBM Patent CN104321271B

Magnetized Nanocoated Stents could improve outcomes for Cardiovascular Patients

Yale University publishes new patent application WO2016160012A1 – "Iron platinum particles for adherence of biologics on medical implants"

Application Date: 6th October 2016

Researchers at Yale university have collaborated with University College London and Queen Mary University in a discovery that may help to improve outcomes for cardiovascular patients. They have discovered that “iron-platinum ferromagnetic particles can be dispersed in a polymer and coated into or onto, or directly linked to or embedded on to, medical devices and magnetized.”

The magnetized device (initially a biodegradable stent) is coated in a polymer/particle solution, suspension or emulsion between 1μm and 1000μm and used to attract, capture, and/or retain magnetically labeled cells on the surface of the device in vivo. The claim describes that the particles can be magnetized by an MRI scanner, and retain a magnetization of of 0.1 to 2.0 Tesla for at least 24 hours. The process is intended to treat patients suffering from vascular injury such as restenosis (the recurring abnormal narrowing or an artery or valve after corrective surgery), and thrombosis.

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 A figure from Yale University Patent Application EP2724403B1

Printing  Efficient Solar Cells with Nano Particle-coated Dye

RICOH publishes new patent application EP3075016A1 - "Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell"

Application Date: 5th October

RICOH may be best known for document printers and photocopiers, but the scope of its innovation goes far beyond the office. The company's most recent patent application notes the growing demand for solar cells, and the problem that the current production methods mean that they are complicated and thus expensive to manufacture.

The development of a porous metal oxide semiconductor electrode has meant that the cells can be manufactured using a printing method with a ruthenium complex as a dye, but the resulting cell contains iodine and a volatile solvent, which can cause problems with leaking and efficiency.

The patent describes a dye-sensitized solar cell, which contains a transparent electroconductive film substrate; a first electrode provided with a layer of an electron-transporting compound, which is composed of nano particles each coated with a sensitizing dye; a charge transfer layer; a hole transport layer; and a second electrode. The resulting cell is described as maintaining a 94% conversion efficiency rate after being left to stand at 80°C for 500 hours - far more efficient than previous types of printed solar cells. 

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RICOH's Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell. Source: RICOH