A science kit to help students learn about nanotechnology has been selected as one of the top 100 technology products added to the market place for 2013.
NanoFab Lab…in a Box!™ was developed by Mike Zach, associate professor of chemistry at UW-Stevens Point, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.
Research and Design Magazine’s R&D 100 awards (http://www.rdmag.com/award-winners/2014/07/2014-r-d-100-award-winners) are seen as the “Oscars of Innovation.” This international competition recognizes excellence in a range of industries, including telecommunications, optics, high-energy physics, materials science, chemistry and biotechnology.
The NanoFab lab simplifies nanotechnology concepts for high school and college students. It is a shoebox-sized educational kit for easy, rapid duplication of patterned nanowires without the need for a multimillion-dollar clean room.
This is a new way to make tiny electronics and other materials used in high-tech advanced manufacturing. Scientists believe this technology can be used in fabricating transistors, in sensors, solar cells and as electronic components.
Zach’s nonprofit EChem Nanowires Educational Foundation, Inc. developed the technology in partnership with nanoscientist Ani Sumant of Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials. The UW System’s WiSys Technology Foundation owns the patent.
Scientists needed to develop entirely separate techniques to grow nanowires made from different materials in the past, Zach said. “Now we’ve developed a universal method for growing many different materials. It controls the location where material is deposited with a reusable template or ‘printing press’ that speeds the process from hours or days to minutes or even seconds.”
The nanowires are created with an ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD) template, which can be used an indefinite number of times. The nanowires grow at the edge of a conducting form of UNCD.
The diamond’s properties allow it to be used like a stamp repeatedly to create various patterns simply and inexpensively, said Sumant, UNCD specialist in Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials.
This kit offers an opportunity for science education and outreach, Zach said, and has been introduced in several Wausau schools. “Most schools don’t have the resources to perform expensive nanotechnology experiments, but our invention allows us to bring nanotechnology to the classroom in a very tangible way.”
It was selected from more than 1,000 entries by a panel that considered potential importance, potential impact to business and innovative method for solving a problem.
Editors: This 75-second video gives a simple overview of the technique: http://youtu.be/SSJa4NlzqKs