Nanoknife: the Precision Cutting of Molecular-scale Materials

Precise cutting and tailoring of small scale structures and devices Tailoring nanostructures/nanomaterials to create field emitters, quantum dots, nanoscale resonators, electrical interconnects and circuitry, linear and rotational bearings, NEM/MEMS components, scanning probe microscopy tips, and to control nanotube strength or conductivity Removing excess nanomaterial when a single electrical or mechanical contact is desired


Uses less expensive and widely available SEMs instead of TEMs Damage is more discriminate than with chemical etching or electrical methods (accuracy within 10 nm) Cuts delicate and irregular nanomaterials that cannot be imaged by STM or AFM Compatible with most device architectures More time efficient than scanning probe methods


Alex Zettl and his group at Berkeley Lab have invented a rapid method to cut and hinge carbon nanostructures and other materials like graphite sheets using the low energy focused electron beam of a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Until now, no simple and flexible method has existed for cleanly cutting and shaping nanomaterials. The new method could enable the creation of more complex nano-circuitry, field emitters, bearings for nanoscale linear and rotational actuators, higher resolution AFM and STM tips, and a multitude of tailored MEMS/NEMS components.

The Berkeley Lab technique is highly precise, with accuracies as high as 10 nm, and delivers minimal damage to surrounding material and untargeted sections of the particle being cut. Unlike TEM and scanning probe shaping methods, the new invention imposes no special substrate requirements and is therefore compatible with most device architectures. Single or multiple nanotubes can be loaded, located, and cut within several minutes.

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Inventor(s): Alex Zettl

Type of Offer: Licensing

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