on a Chip - Next time you feel sick, your doctor might use your blood
sample, plus one tiny computer chip, to rule out up to 10,000 diseases—all
while youâ€™re still there in the office. (2/6/03)
to the Heavens - Could an incredibly tiny, uniquely strong structure
make a space elevator? (12/24/02)
Elsewhere on the web
receives DOE award for innovations in nanostructured materials.
University of New Mexico team wins National
Collegiate Inventors Competition
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley to print
out fully-assembled gadgets
Imagine printing out tiny chips, sensors or other electronic devices on paper
- from your home computer.
As this ScienCentral News video reports, materials scientist C. Jeffrey Brinker
has come up with “intelligent inks” that could let you do that.
From Inkjet Printer to Super Printer
What if your standard inkjet printer could turn out much smaller, cheaper,
better electronic devices? At Sandia
National Laboratories and the University
of New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M., C.
Jeffrey Brinker uses familiar office equipment to work on nanotechnology
in new ways.
On his laptop computer, Brinker can design a tiny device. Then he replaces
the ink in a regular inkjet printer cartridge with his “intelligent
inks”. Once he clicks on “Print,” his printer produces
his new device. Brinker says you can write with his “intelligent inks”
the same way you might with regular ink: with a small dip pen, a fountain pen,
or any standard printer.
Brinkerâ€™s inks make structures on the nanoscale
by taking advantage of molecular
self-assembly, which means the tendency of some molecules to form orderly
patterns on their own. You can see molecular self-assembly at work whenever
you use detergent.
Detergent molecules form spheres with an exterior that likes water, and an interior
that shrinks as far away from water as possible. The interior absorbs dirt and
grease, and the exterior allows you to rinse it away with water.
Brinker makes his inks by adding certain self-assembling molecules -
they could be proteins, yeasts or plastics - to a solvent. Just as regular
ink has to dry, Brinkerâ€™s “intelligent inks” must dry. As
the solvent evaporates, he says, the detergent-like molecules “spontaneously
organize themselves into elaborate nanostructures. They could take on the form
of honeycombs or miniature jungle gyms or even structures that look like tumbleweed.
You can make a simple device that would have some sensitivity, just by writing
it or printing it on a piece of paper or silicon or glass.”
Soon, this very simple process will become what Brinker refers to as “color
inkjet printing.” Because one ink cannot produce a device that works several
ways, he plans to start printing with several different inks at once. Every
ink will have a different “color” or function. To better control
the printing, he says, “we decapitated the printing head from the rest
of a standard printer, and weâ€™ve put it on a platform that has a more
sophisticated ability to aim different ‘colorsâ€™ of ink at particular
spots.” This more complex printer, he predicts, will print out devices
with more elaborate electronic or optical properties.
Brinkerâ€™s work is funded by the Department
of Energy (DOE) and the National
Science Foundation (NSF).