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Nanotech Briefs

RESEARCH

Scientists at the University of Louisville in Kentucky have developed a novel technique that could make it possible to more easily and directly form 3-D networks of nanostructures. The researchers use tiny tips to suspend fibers on micro- and nanostructures, providing a potential fabrication tool for microfluidic and microoptical devices.

ADVANCE

IBM scientists have measured the energy it takes to “flip” the magnetic orientation of a single atom. This measurement of one of the fundamental magnetic properties of materials is a significant step in developing nanometer-scale magnetic structures for ultradense data storage, quantum computing, and other advanced applications.

FOLLOW-UP

Recent breakthroughs in materials science have sparked considerable excitement about the commercial feasibility of polymer-based solar cells that would be cheap and easy to make (see “Solar-Cell Rollout,” TR July/August 2004). In a move that will combine two of the leading research groups in the field, Konarka Technologies, a Lowell, MA-based startup, has acquired Siemens’s organic-photovoltaics business; Siemens’s solar-cell researchers will also join Konarka. Last year, Siemens’s scientists reported making polymer solar cells with record-setting efficiencies in converting sunlight to electricity.

FUNDING

The National Cancer Institute has announced a $144.3 million, five-year initiative in nanotechnology. The research project will look to use recent advances in nanotech to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

MANUFACTURING

One of the most intriguing properties of carbon nanotubes, large molecules that could prove a basic building block for nanotech, is their potential to form superstrong materials. Fibers made of nanotubes are potentially 10 times stronger than the strongest existing commercial fibers. Now researchers at Rice University say they have improved methods for manufacturing fibers made of single-walled carbon nanotubes. The improved manufacturing methods could potentially make large-scale production of the superstrong fibers commercially viable.

MILESTONE

Intel says that, in its effort to uphold Moore’s Law, it has made a fully functional memory chip with more than a half-billion transistors, each measuring only 35 nanometers across. Intel expects to begin shipping commercial versions of the chip next year. Intel predicts it will be able to continue to shrink its chip technology through at least 2009.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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