Nanomanufacturing has Many Benefits that Enable New Manufacturing Processes
Faster, stronger, lighter, cheaper and more durable are necessary attributes for the manufacturing industry. But what if one could also have: water-repellent, anti-reflective, self-cleaning, ultraviolet- or infrared resistant, anti-fog, antimicrobial, scratch-resistant and electrically conductive in the mix?
Small, but Mighty
Nanomanufacturing and nanotechnology using nanoscale materials promises just that, and its applications continue to grow. Using elements measured in nanometers or micros of 10-100 nanometers or less, nanomanufacturing is enhancing performance in the manufacturing industry by boosting the properties in high-performance, innovative, next-generation products.
Nanomanufacturing, defined as the production of nanoscale materials like powders or fluids, enables high-precision production through a “bottom up” or “top down” process.
Top-down fabrication – like whittling a large block down into another object, top down systematically reduces to a final nanoscale product
Bottom-up fabrication – builds up nanoscaled products from atomic- and molecular-scale components
Enabling New Manufacturing Processes
Attention for nanotechnology processes gained prominence in 2000 when the government established its National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). Created with a goal to make the U.S. a global leader in nanotechnology, the NNI and its related departments and independent agencies have provided research and instruction to multiple industries, sharing advances in nanotechnology that can reduce costs and improve capabilities along the way. NNI’s website Nano.gov offers resources and information about nanotechnology for the public and private sectors.
Successful innovations through NNI’s initiative include examples from higher-education institutions such as Purdue University, Northwestern University, Rice University and the University of Pennsylvania where researchers apply nanomanufacturing technologies.
Tools and Techniques
Laser shock imprinting – forms nanoscale metallic shapes for gears (Purdue)
Desktop nanofabrication tool – uses beam-pen lithography arrays to build nanoscale structures (Northwestern)
Nanoscale diamond tips – creation of longer-lasting AFM tips for etching or depositing material in nanomanufacturing processing (University of Pennsylvania)
These educational institutions are also joined by companies such as MesoCoat, ArcelorMital, IMEC and Nantero that are using nanotechnology to prevent oxidation, create lighter steel, reduce waste and produce lower-cost solar cells. Well-known names like Hewlett Packard and Intel are applying nanotechnology to create improved memory devices with more computing power and storage capacity.
New Processes Enabling Nanomanufacturing
Chemical vapor deposition – reacting chemicals produce pure, high-performance films
Molecular beam epitaxy – deposits highly controlled thin films
Atomic layer epitaxy – deposits one-atom-thick layers
Dip pen lithography – dipping the tip of an atomic-force microscope into a chemical fluid to “write” on a surface
Nanoimprint lithography – “stamping” or “printing” nanoscale features onto a surface
Roll-to-roll processing – producing nanoscale devices on ultrathin plastic or metal
Self-assembly – bringing a group of components together into an ordered structure without outside direction
The future of nanomanufacturing is bright, but progress doesn’t come cheap. Resourceful R&D will need to rely on funding to further the potential of nanomanufacturing. Currently, there are more than 90 NNI-funded centers throughout the U.S. and $36.5 million of President Trump’s YF 2019 budget of close to $1.4 billion is earmarked for nanomanufacturing.
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