Zyvex Labs today announced the award of a $9.7M program funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and Texas’ ETF (Emerging Technology Fund). The goal of this effort is to develop a new manufacturing technique that enables “Tip-Based Nanofabrication” to accelerate the transition of nanotechnology from the laboratory to commercial products. Starting with the construction of ‘one-at-a-time’ atomically precise silicon structures, the Consortium initially plans to develop atomically precise, ‘quantum dot’ nanotech-based products in volume at practical production rates and costs.
The money will be shared by the Atomically Precise Manufacturing Consortium:
The charter industry APMC members are Zyvex Labs, General Dynamics, Integrated Circuit Scanning Probe Instruments, and Vought Aircraft; while Texas Higher Education members include the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas. Other Higher Education members are the University of Central Florida and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Government and non-profit consortium members are the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the North Texas Regional Center for Innovation & Commercialization (NTXRCIC). Other consortium members of all three types are expected to be added as the program progresses into later stages.
Atomically Precise Manufacturing
What does Atomically Precise Manufacturing mean to Zyvex?
Zyvex has been developing technology that will eventually lead to an Atomically Precised Manufacturing (APM) technology. The Zyvex definition of a Molecular Assembler is “a user-controlled fabrication tool capable of creating molecularly precise structures with 3-dimensional capability in an economically viable manner.
The Atomically Precised Manufacturing Project currently consists of three coordinated efforts: Micro Automation, Molecularly Precise Tools, and Patterned Atomic Layer Epitaxy. This new funding seems to be focused on molecularly precise tools.
Molecularly precise tools: Zyvex undertook the APM Project in order to deal with the significant limitations that current scanning probe tips and other molecular manipulation tools have placed on science and technology. We are convinced that nano and molecular manipulation technology will not get out of the research labs until molecularly precise tips and other tools are developed. We believe that molecular pick and place will not be viable until dependable molecularly precise tools are available.
The Micro Automation effort is a result of the realization that affordable molecularly precise manufacturing for many products will only be possible with massive parallelism. Parallel micro-assembly (being supported in part by our NIST-ATP) will develop both the system architecture needed to handle parallel assembly, and the assemblers at the micro scale required to deal with the output of large throughput molecular assemblers.
Previous funding seemed to be more focused on the third part [Atomic Layered Epitaxy]:
Atomic layer deposition builds amorphous materials; atomic layer epitaxy (ALE) builds crystalline materials. Start with a protected (passivated) surface: every available bond has a hydrogen atom. If you deprotect the surface, removing the hydrogen, then you can deposit a layer of atoms. If you choose the right precursor gas, you add only one monolayer which is protected as it’s added. Then you can deprotect and add exactly one more layer of atoms. There are a number of precursor gases available. There are literally hundreds of systems to grow things with atomic precision in one dimension.
Now, if you combine this with the ability to deprotect the surface in selected locations… With a scanning tunneling microscope, you can remove single hydrogen atoms with atomic precision. If you do this layer by layer, you can build 3D structures. Prof. Joe Lyding at University of Illinois has done repeated desorption/deposition.
At the Productive Nanosystems: Launching the Technology Roadmap Conference: Zyvex’s John Randall presented their vision of Atomically Precise Manufacturing and Chris Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology covered that presentation in detail.