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Controllable, Reversible, Nanoscale Mass Conveyor

IB-2007
 
THE MASS CONVEYOR DELIVERS ATOMS TO PRECISE LOCATIONS
 
  Four images, each taken 60 seconds apart, portray the migration of indium atoms along a carbon nantoube subjected to approximately two volts. The atoms grow into droplets which then shrink as the atoms move along the tube to form new droplets downstream.

APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:

  • Delivery of nanomaterials to assembly/production sites for optical, electronic, and mechanical devices, especially MEMS
  • Operation of micro and nanodevices
  • Combining with scanning probe microscopy to fabricate arrays of quantum dots, spherical nanolenses, and plasmonic waveguides

ADVANTAGES:

  • Precise delivery to a predetermined site
  • Reversibility
  • High throughput
  • Quantity and speed control
  • 100% conservation of mass

ABSTRACT:

Alex Zettl and colleagues have invented a system that uses nanotubes to move nanoscale particles to and from precise locations without the loss of a single atom. The development is a significant step towards the mass production of nanoscale devices, overcoming problems of loading efficiency encountered with scanning tunneling and atomic force microscope techniques.

The Zettl team thermally evaporates metal onto nanotubes and runs a current through the tubes. The metal particles melt and move along a tube, developing droplets that disappear as others grow downstream, until all the metal arrives at the end of the tube. The migration can be speeded up by increasing the current and reversed by reversing the current, offering scientists the flexibility needed for developing efficient assembly processes.

The Berkeley Lab process has already been used to construct several nanoscale machines and working devices, including a linear nanomotor (see the link below). Combining the mass conveyor technique with the atomic manipulation capabilities of scanning probe microscopy could produce a powerful assembly tool to fabricate nanostructures such as arrays of nanocrystals, spherical nanolenses, and plasmonic waveguides.

STATUS:

  • Issued Patent # 7,341,651. Available for licensing or collaborative research.

REFERENCE NUMBER: IB-2007

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