Tag Archives: manufacturing

Nanoimprint Foundry in Singapore

Sept. 30, 2013 marks the date for the launch of Singapore’s Nanoimprint Foundry. From the Sept. 30, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

A*STAR’s [Agency for Science, Technology and Research] Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and its partners launched a new Nanoimprint Foundry that will develop, test-bed and prototype specially engineered plastics and surfaces for the specific purpose of commercialising the technologies. Possible applications of nanoimprint technology include dry adhesives, aesthetic packaging, contact lenses, biomedical cell scaffolds, anti-frost surfaces and anti-bacteria materials.

The multi-party investment will bring together national research organisations, suppliers and manufacturers spanning the nanotechnology value chain, and government agencies to promote the technology. The Foundry is part of a masterplan spearheaded by A*STAR to push translational research and accelerate commercialisation of home-grown technologies. In partnership with other A*STAR research institutes, IMRE will work with companies like Toshiba Machines Co Ltd, EV Group, NTT Advanced Technology Corporation, NIL Technology ApS, Kyodo International Inc., micro resist technology GmbH, Nanoveu Pte Ltd and Solves Innovative Technology Pte Ltd to produce prototypes for real-world products and applications. The Foundry and its partners will also work closely with Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) and SPRING to promote its nanoimprint applications to industry as part of the plans to build up Singapore’s high-value manufacturing capabilities.

The Sept. 30, 2013 A*STAR press release, which originated the news item, itemizes the various news points of interest,

3.     “We can help companies develop up to 20,000 samples for proof-of-concept and pilot production allowing manufacturers to shorten the product cycle but minus the heavy capital R&D investment”, said Dr Karen Chong, the IMRE scientist who is heading the Foundry. Dr Chong added that the Foundry will be a one-stop shop for companies seeking to conceive, design and develop solutions for new, revolutionary products based on the versatile nanoimprint technology.

4.     “The Foundry gives us the tools for creating real products that target industry end users and ultimately consumers”, explained Mr Masayuki Yagi, Director & General Manager, Advanced Machinery Business Unit, Toshiba Machines Co Ltd, Japan on why the company chose to participate in the initiative. “Toshiba Machines and the Foundry will aim to deliver innovative engineering solutions based on nanoimprint and be the best partner for leading industries”.

5.     According to Mr Koh Teng Kwee, Director of Solves Innovative Technology Pte Ltd, “Working with IMRE since IICON 1[1] am sure IMRE’s nanoimprint technology and know-how is now ready for industrial adoption.  In my opinion, IMRE is able to provide everything needed for a new product realisation involving nanoimprinting.”

6.     “There is a billion-dollar, virtually untapped market for new advanced nanotechnology products that can make use of what the Foundry has to offer”, said Prof Andy Hor, Executive Director for IMRE, adding that the initiative will hasten the industrialisation of nanoimprinting in this lucrative market segment. In consumer care for example, the global market for contact lenses – where nanoimprint technology can be used to produce new functionalities like multi-coloured lenses – is expected to grow to USD 11.7 billion by 2015[2].

7.     “The Foundry is the first one-stop shop to pull different value chain partners together to offer solutions based on nanoimprint through equipment, moulds, materials and applications to end user companies”, said Dr Tan Geok Leng, Executive Director of A*STAR’s Science and Engineering Research Council which oversees a number of the research institutes dedicated to the physical sciences and engineering. “The new Foundry is part of Singapore’s strategy to create a new, advanced high-value manufacturing sector to support its growing knowledge-based economy.”

8.     “As part of EDB’s vision to position Singapore as an Advanced Manufacturing Hub, we will continue to work with companies to co-create and adopt advanced manufacturing technologies. We see this new Research Foundry as one of the key infrastructures to strengthen nanoscale-manufacturing capabilities in Singapore”, said Mr Yi-Hsen Gian, Director (i3), Economic Development Board (EDB), Singapore.

[1]Source: Industrial Consortium On Nanoimprint, Project 1 on anti-reflection surfaces

[2] Source: Global Industry Analysts, Inc.

Good luck with the foundry and this attempt to set up a manufacturing process!

Breakthroughs with self-assembling DNA-based nanoscaled structures

With all the talk about self-assembling DNA nanotechnology, it’s possible to misunderstand the stage of development this endeavour occupies as the title, Reality check for DNA Nanotechnology, for a Dec. 13, 2012 news release on EurekAlert suggests,

… This emerging technology employs DNA as a programmable building material for self-assembled, nanometer-scale structures. Many practical applications have been envisioned, and researchers recently demonstrated a synthetic membrane channel made from DNA. Until now, however, design processes were hobbled by a lack of structural feedback. Assembly was slow and often of poor quality.

In fact, the news release is touting two breakthroughs,

Now researchers led by Prof. Hendrik Dietz of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) have removed these obstacles.

One barrier holding the field back was an unproven assumption. Researchers were able to design a wide variety of discrete objects and specify exactly how DNA strands should zip together and fold into the desired shapes. They could show that the resulting nanostructures closely matched the designs. Still lacking, though, was the validation of the assumed subnanometer-scale precise positional control. This has been confirmed for the first time through analysis of a test object designed specifically for the purpose. A technical breakthrough based on advances in fundamental understanding, this demonstration has provided a crucial reality check for DNA nanotechnology.

In a separate set of experiments, the researchers discovered that the time it takes to make a batch of complex DNA-based objects can be cut from a week to a matter of minutes, and that the yield can be nearly 100%. They showed for the first time that at a constant temperature, hundreds of DNA strands can fold cooperatively to form an object — correctly, as designed — within minutes. Surprisingly, they say, the process is similar to protein folding, despite significant chemical and structural differences. “Seeing this combination of rapid folding and high yield,” Dietz says, “we have a stronger sense than ever that DNA nanotechnology could lead to a new kind of manufacturing, with a commercial, even industrial future.” And there are immediate benefits, he adds: “Now we don’t have to wait a week for feedback on an experimental design, and multi-step assembly processes have suddenly become so much more practical.”

Dexter Johnson comments in his Dec. 18, 2012 posting (which includes an embedded video) on the Nanoclast blog (located on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [IEEE] website),

The field of atomically precise manufacturing—or molecular manufacturing—has taken a big step towards realizing its promise with this latest research.  We may still be a long way from realizing the “nanotech rapture”  but certainly knowing that the objects built meet their design specifications and can be produced in minutes rather than weeks has to be recognized as a significant development.

Three papers have been published on these breakthroughs, here are the citations,

Xiao-chen Bai, Thomas G. Martin, Sjors H. W. Scheres, Hendrik Dietz. Cryo-EM structure of a 3D DNA-origami object. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, Dec. 4, 2012, 109 (49) 20012-20017; on-line in PNAS Early Edition, Nov. 19, 2012. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1215713109

Jean-Philippe J. Sobczak, Thomas G. Martin, Thomas Gerling, Hendrik Dietz. Rapid folding of DNA into nanoscale shapes at constant temperature. Science, vol. 338, issue 6113, pp. 1458-1461. DOI: 10.1126/science.1229919

See also: Martin Langecker, Vera Arnaut, Thomas G. Martin, Jonathan List, Stephan Renner, Michael Mayer, Hendrik Dietz, and Friedrich C. Simmel. Synthetic lipid membrane channels formed by designed DNA nanostructures. Science, vol. 338, issue 6109, pp. 932-936. DOI: 10.1126/science.1225624

3-D and self-assembly

Here’s an intriguing approach to self-assembly for manufacturing purposes from scientists at Brown and Johns Hopkins Universities, respectively. From the Dec. 7, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

In a paper published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (“Algorithmic design of self-folding polyhedra”), researchers from Brown and Johns Hopkins University determined the best 2-D arrangements, called planar nets, to create self-folding polyhedra with dimensions of a few hundred microns, the size of a small dust particle. The strength of the analysis lies in the combination of theory and experiment. The team at Brown devised algorithms to cut through the myriad possibilities and identify the best planar nets to yield the self-folding 3-D structures. Researchers at Johns Hopkins then confirmed the nets’ design principles with experiments.

Here’s the magnitude of the problem these scientists were solving (from the news item),

Material chemists and engineers would love to figure out how to create self-assembling shells, containers or structures that could be used as tiny drug-carrying containers or to build 3-D sensors and electronic devices.

There have been some successes with simple 3-D shapes such as cubes, but the list of possible starting points that could yield the ideal self-assembly for more complex geometric configurations gets long fast. For example, while there are 11 2-D arrangements for a cube, there are 43,380 for a dodecahedron (12 equal pentagonal faces). Creating a truncated octahedron (14 total faces – six squares and eight hexagons) has 2.3 million possibilities.

Associate professor of applied mathematics at Brown University, Govind Menon, says (from the news item),

“The issue is that one runs into a combinatorial explosion. … How do we search efficiently for the best solution within such a large dataset? This is where math can contribute to the problem.”

Here’s how they solved the problem (from the news item),

 

“Using a combination of theory and experiments, we uncovered design principles for optimum nets which self-assemble with high yields,” said David Gracias, associate professor in of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins and a co-corresponding author on the paper.

“In doing so, we uncovered striking geometric analogies between natural assembly of proteins and viruses and these polyhedra, which could provide insight into naturally occurring self-assembling processes and is a step toward the development of self-assembly as a viable manufacturing paradigm.”

“This is about creating basic tools in nanotechnology,” said Menon, co-corresponding author on the paper. “It’s important to explore what shapes you can build. The bigger your toolbox, the better off you are.” While the approach has been used elsewhere to create smaller particles at the nanoscale, the researchers at Brown and Johns Hopkins used larger sizes to better understand the principles that govern self-folding polyhedra.

The news item on Nanowerk features more details, a video of a self-assembling dodecahedron, and an image of various options for 2-D nets that can be used to create 3-D shapes.

“Using a combination of theory and experiments, we uncovered design principles for optimum nets which self-assemble with high yields,” said David Gracias, associate professor in of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins and a co-corresponding author on the paper. “In doing so, we uncovered striking geometric analogies between natural assembly of proteins and viruses and these polyhedra, which could provide insight into naturally occurring self-assembling processes and is a step toward the development of self-assembly as a viable manufacturing paradigm.”
“This is about creating basic tools in nanotechnology,” said Menon, co-corresponding author on the paper. “It’s important to explore what shapes you can build. The bigger your toolbox, the better off you are.”
While the approach has been used elsewhere to create smaller particles at the nanoscale, the researchers at Brown and Johns Hopkins used larger sizes to better understand the principles that govern self-folding polyhedra.