Friday, March 20, 2009 | Dominique K. Numakura - DKN Research
This is the last in a series of newsletters from DKN Research detailing observations from nano tech 2009 International Nanotechnology Exhibition & Conference.
Since the show is centered on nano technologies, the term "nano" was used quite frequently, but I wonder how many know the correct definition of the word. The term is actually a prefix for metric units smaller than "micro." "Nano" is one thousandth of a "micro," and "micro" is one millionth, so "nano" is one billionth. However, people associated with the electronic industry have an even narrower definition when using the phrase "nano technology"--it is 100 nanometers or smaller. Currently, "nano" is a fashionable buzz word--not only in the electronics industry, but also in other industries.
Not many displays satisfied the aforementioned definition and I scratched my head at some of the items on display. The leading semiconductor manufacturers can generate lines smaller than 100 nanometers on silicon wafers. Certainly, they are considered to be producing "nano products." There were not too many semiconductor processing technologies on display--I assumed they are too practical.
Most of the items and displays that material manufacturers featured were centered on "nano" materials. Many of them recently introduced particles smaller than 10 nanometer particles. These are almost molecular sized or small atom clusters. The representatives explained that the physical and chemical properties of the nanometer sized particles are different from bulk materials. Nano paste conductors for printable electronics could be typical examples. One exhibitor from a material company said that melting point of the nanometer sized silver particles is much lower than bulk silver metal; therefore the baking temperature could be lower. The conductivity of the nanometer sized silver particles can be higher than bulk silver metal. If it is true, it is very innovative and probably worthy of a Nobel Prize. I heard this similar sales pitch at the show and I am very skeptical. Can anyone substantiate this claim?
Many displays centered upon nanometer size organic molecules with interesting performances. The first one I came across is "fullerene" which was discovered only a quarter century ago as a soccer ball shaped molecule. The molecule can enclose metal atoms inside the ball molecule. Scientists confirmed super conductivity of the molecules, but, since temperatures are very low, it is not practical to use as a conductor material for electronic devices. The only significant application for this material is in cosmetics. Material manufacturers explained that fullerene enhances performance; unfortunately, my field of expertise is not in cosmetics or woman's fashion, so I excluded myself from any further conversation.
Carbon nano tube (CNT) is very valuable to the electronics industry. Many companies were talking about the new technologies with CNT during the exhibition. Major electronics companies in Japan prepared large booths for new technologies and products related to CNT. NEC introduced printable TFT transistor with CNT. It has synthesized new CNT molecule and developed a new printing process for the TFT array on a substrate. One of the speakers, during the presentation session, said that there could be different applications from current semiconductor devices. The speaker also said that it would take several years to develop actual products.
Fujitsu introduced different types of approaches with CNT molecules, and have been working on several nanometer level wiring and packaging technologies using CNT molecules. Fujitsu developed a special direct synthesizing process of CNT molecules for tiny electronic devices. Their representatives could not provide the cost of this new technology. I am not sure how practical these new technologies will be, and it may be more than three years before we see an actual application used in business.
It is a fun to see and consider the future technologies and their application opportunities. I apologize for omitting other featured items and interesting technologies from the show; however, that wraps up my observations from the nano tech 2009 International Nanotechnology Exhibition & Conference.
Dominique K. Numakura
DKN Research, www.dknresearch.com
Headlines of the Week
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1. NEC (Major electronics company in Japan) 3/4
The company has developed a new flexible memory module with 3-D packaging technologies for system LSI.
2. Showa Denko (Major chemical company in Japan) 3/4
The company will invest 3 billion yen to build a new carbon nano tube (CNT) manufacturing plant for conductive hybrid materials.