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Nanotech Briefs

…and other key developments in the technology and business of the ultra-tiny.


Researchers at Purdue and Duke Universities report taking a promising step toward quantum computers by linking tiny “puddles” containing 40 to 50 electrons to form part of a transistor (left). Each puddle of electrons measures only about 180 nanometers in diameter. In general, quantum computers could be extremely efficient at encryption and data searching.


E Ink, Philips Electronics, and Sony have jointly announced the world’s first consumer product based on electronic paper. The product, a Sony e-book reader (left) that can store up to 500 downloadable books, went on sale in Japan this spring. Its display uses E Ink’s technology, which employs tiny microcapsules that act as electronically responsive ink (see “Dazzling Display,” TR March 2004).


Merrill Lynch has created an index of selected public companies to chart the progress of the fledgling nanotech industry on Wall Street. Merrill Lynch says it chose companies that have “a significant portion of their future profits tied to nanotechnology.” The index does not include diversified corporations such as IBM and GE that are working on nanotech.


IBM and Stanford University are forming a research center to focus on spintronics, a field that aims to exploit the spin of electrons to create high-performance, low-power electronics. Spintronics is already used in hard drives, but IBM says it hopes to eventually deploy the technology in new types of logic devices and even quantum computers.


Nanosys, in Palo Alto, CA, has filed papers with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. Nanosys is working on nanoelectronics and solar cells based on nanomaterials (see “Nanotech’s First Blockbusters?TR March 2004). In the papers filed with the SEC, Nanosys stated it lost approximately $17.0 million between its founding in 2001 and 2003, and that it does not anticipate that its first products “will be commercially available for at least several years, if at all.” It also notes it has collaborations with DuPont, Intel, and Matsushita Electric Works.


Nanotech startup Ntera, based in Dublin, Ireland, has raised another $9.5 million, increasing its total investment to $30 million. The new funding was led by Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures. Ntera is looking to commercialize displays that use nanotechnology. The company says the new investment will allow it to expand its manufacturing in Taiwan and Ireland and roll out new products for applications ranging from handhelds to large-scale public clocks.