Nanoscale technology deal a tight fit

Agilent Technologies and Stanford University ink nanoscale collaboration deal

Lloyd Dunlap
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Agilent Technologies Inc. describesitself as the world's premier measurement company with leadership positions incommunications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis. Now the $5.8billion revenue giant will collaborate with Stanford University in a researchprogram designed to explore a new class of nanoscale devices using acombination of scanning probe microscopy (SPM) and atomic layer deposition(ALD). The research will enable the rapid prototyping and characterization of avariety of nanoscale devices for a wide range of applications.
 
 
"The novel nanostructures will be fabricated andcharacterized in situ in this uniqueSPM-ALD tool in order to rapidly prototype a wide variety of next-generationdevices," says Fritz Prinz, professor and chairman of mechanical engineering atStanford University. "The SPM-ALD tool will enable us to build devices whichtake advantage of the quantum confinement effects present at small lengthscales that could not be accessed with traditional lithography methods. Thesedevices can only be built with manufacturing tools possessing extraordinaryspatial resolution."
 
 
Agilent entered the nanotech field about four years ago,explains Jeff Rozner, the company's director of strategy for nanotechnologybusiness, with the purchase of an SPM company. At about the same time, Agilentexited the semiconductor business.
 
 
"As a measurement company, nanotechnology is a logical fit,"Rozner notes, since its focus is on the measurement of various properties ofpolymers, surface coatings, tools and surface mediated biological processes.Prinz was a long-term customer of a company Agilent acquired, Rozner adds.Since then, Agilent has provided Prinz with loaner equipment and Rozner hasjoined Stanford's nanoscale advisory board.
 
 
The new program focuses on the integration of ALD, athin-film technique capable of sub-nanometer precision in thickness, with thenanometer lateral resolution of SPM in a drive to extend the capability of scanningprobe techniques to prototyping and device fabrication. Historically,performance of electronic devices has been limited by traditional manufacturingmethods, such as optical and electron beam lithography, which are not likely todeliver feature resolution significantly below 20 nm.
 
 
The quantum mechanical effects of electron confinement indevices 10 nm or smaller result in phenomena qualitatively different than thoseseen in larger devices. Rozner explains the phenomena with the observation thatsurface area per unit volume increases as physical size decreases (which is whythe metabolic rate of small mammals is so much faster than ours). Withgeometries in all three dimensions of less than 10 nm, surface effects of thisquantum confinement creates an entirely new paradigm for electronic devices, henotes.
 
 
From an electronic standpoint, it's easy to observe, buttough to explain, Rozner says. "It's like particles in a box," he explains. 
When you squeeze down the electronics, they have fewerplaces to live. Changes in energy states result, which are important inphotovoltaic applications. 
 
"You create both freedoms and constraints," he adds, "thatchange chemical potential and reactivity." 
 
 
Asked about the commercial potential of Agilent's nanotechbusiness, Rozner says that "triple digit millions" is the target. He notes thatthe sector of one of Agilent's fastest growing and that it has continued togrow year-on-year during the current recession.
 

 
Agilent seeks faster life science research workflow withEurofins MWG Operon technology purchase
 
SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Seeking to create a new solution thatenables mid-range multiplex screening for the life science research market,Agilent Technologies Inc. announced Nov. 16 its purchase of DNA servicesprovider Eurofins MWG Operon's MassCode Tag technology. Agilent said it willuse MassCode Tag to develop new research products for pathogen identification,leveraging its strength in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and massspectroscopy.
 
 
The purchase, made for an undisclosed sum, includes theMassCode trademarks and intellectual property, including four families ofpatents that are valid in 34 countries, including the United States, UnitedKingdom, Japan and China. Under the agreement, Eurofins MWG Operon willcontinue to supply the core component for the new products.
MassCode Tags—small molecules, each with a unique molecularweight—can be used to screen for specific pathogens that may be present in abiological sample. In MassTag PCR, an application developed by investigators atColumbia University, individual tags are attached to DNA primers thatcorrespond to microbial sequences. The primers are then used to amplify nucleicacid isolated from biological sample using PCR. The tags are released byapplying UV irradiation, and mass spectroscopy is then used to identify thecorresponding tags.
 
 
According to the companies, the mass spectroscopy detectiontechnique is highly multiplexed, faster and more sensitive than traditionaldetection technologies utilized for PCR analysis.
 
 
"This technology addresses a key need by reducing the costto screen for a large number of pathogens that might be present in a givensample and will accelerate the life science research workflow," says GustavoSalem, vice president and general manager of Agilent's Biological Systemsdivision.

Lloyd Dunlap

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