OR ---- April 03, 2005 First came the patent on a
greener, faster way to synthesize gold nanoparticles.
On March 29, University of Oregon chemistry professor
Jim Hutchison received a second patent that could
lead to a new class of nanoscale electronics and optics
assembled from nanoparticles--including ultrasmall
transistors that operate efficiently at room temperature.
article describing the discovery leading to this latest
patent was published in the June 2004 issue of Langmuir,
the American Chemical Society's surface science journal.
The process was developed by Hutchison with two of
his students, Gerd H. Woehrle and Marvin G. Warner.
has been a prolonged effort," Hutchison says.
"We reported this invention in 1997 and the original
work began in 1996. We had a concept, we reduced it
to practice and now we've received a patent on it.
It's exciting to have all that effort pay off."
first patent was issued in May 2004. Since then, he
says, interest in greener methods for nanotechnology
has heated up significantly. At the same time, the
quest to build ever-smaller computer chips continues,
and Hutchison's new patent may be just the ticket
to meet what seems like an endlessly, exponentially
first patent covered the use of greener methods to
make building blocks. This one is about a greener
approach to creating self-assembling structures with
those building blocks-a bottom-up approach like using
Legos as opposed to chiseling or etching away material
like we currently do on silicon chips," Hutchison
transistors such as those addressed in the patent
are composed of nanoparticle building blocks (for
example, a chemically functionalized gold core 1.5
nanometers in diameter) and function based upon a
mix of classical and quantum mechanical properties.
patent covers the assembly of devices using a biopolymer
DNA as a template. Within living organisms, DNA comprises
the genetic code, but by itself, DNA is just a polymer-a
string of molecules hooked together in a chain whose
links can encode information. In Hutchison's lab,
the DNA polymer serves as an architectural scaffold
for tiny particles of gold, the ultimate conductor
you think about a structure of gold dots on a DNA
strand, it's like a wire with a whole bunch of minute
cuts in it, about 15 angstroms in size," Hutchison
says. "In order for electrons to travel down
a nanoparticle chain, they have to jump or tunnel
from one particle to the next. As a result, these
nanochains have different properties than a wire would
have. That's why you can make transistors out of them."
tunneling behavior is a feature of quantum physics
that creates problems when using current manufacturing
techniques but becomes a boon when the workplace shrinks
directs the UO's Materials Science Institute and is
co-director of ONAMI, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies
Institute. The National Science Foundation, the Alfred
P. Sloan Foundation and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus
Foundation, Inc., have funded his research.
known as a world leader for teaching green chemistry
principles, Hutchison and his UO colleagues are pioneering
the field of green nanoscience. "Jim Hutchison
is clearly leading the way in identifying the scientific
approaches that will be needed in designing the most
innovative advances for nanoscience and technology
in a way that is also not harmful to human health
and the environment," says Paul Anastas, director
of the Green Chemistry Institute, a nonprofit organization
that is part of the American Chemical Society.
42, is an Oregon native who earned his bachelor's
degree at the UO and his doctorate from Stanford.
He received an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship to work
on analytical and surface chemistry at the University
of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Since joining the
UO faculty in 1994, he has received several awards
and honors including an NSF CAREER Award and an Alfred
P. Sloan Research Fellowship.
is focused on research and commercialization of nanoscience
and microtechnologies to foster the creation of new
products, companies and jobs in the Pacific Northwest.
It unites the University of Oregon (Eugene), Oregon
State University (Corvallis), and Portland State University
with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland,
Wash.), the state of Oregon and private industry.
The new patent is No. 6,872,971.
Melody Ward Leslie