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Nanotech Briefs

September 1, 2004

FOLLOW-UP

Cheap and easy-to-make solar cells that use nanomaterials have the potential to revolutionize energy production. A leading startup in the field, Lowell, MA-based Konarka Technologies, which is developing flexible, printable solar cells (see “Solar-Cell Rollout,” TR July/August 2004), has raised $18 million in a new round of financing. The startup, which expects to introduce its first products by the end of the year, has raised $32 million since 2001.

ADVANCE

In the development of what could prove to be a fundamental new tool in nanotechnology, researchers at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, CA, have built an instrument capable of detecting the “spin” of a single electron. The magnetic-resonance force microscope could open the doors to 3-D imaging of biological molecules and of the atomic structure of materials. The researchers say the new microscope combines techniques from magnetic-resonance imaging and scanning tunneling microscopy, which IBM Zürich scientists invented.

FUNDING

Citing the economic importance of the electronics industry, a group of CEOs from leading European companies has called for Europe’s public and private investment in nanoelectronics to reach at least 6 billion euros ($7.4 billion) a year. Those signing the group’s appeal include the CEOs of Nokia and chip producer STMicroelectronics.

MILESTONE

Researchers at General Electric say they have built one of the smallest functioning electronic devices ever, a diode made from a carbon nanotube. Diodes are widely used in electronics, and GE says its device could be vital to making future electronics even smaller and faster.

INVESTMENT

German chemical giant Degussa is beginning construction on a nanotech R&D center in Marl, Germany. The company says it will spend 50 million euros ($62 million) on its new Nanotronics Science to Business Center over the next five years. Startup is scheduled for 2005.

PATENTS

Carbon Nanotechnologies claims that it now has a strong patent position in “all process routes currently considered to be practical” for making single-wall carbon nanotubes, the most important form of the pipelike molecules. The company, a Rice University spinoff cofounded by Nobel laureate Richard Smalley, received its latest patent for a process for growing carbon nanotubes on a catalyst. Carbon nanotubes are one of nanotech’s most promising materials and have applications in making everything from tiny transistors to superstrong fibers.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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