IBM: Applying semiconductor knowhow to organic nanostructures

IBM researchers and scientists from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology unveiled a nanomedicine breakthrough that cribs a lot of semiconductor intellectual property.

IBM researchers and scientists from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology on Sunday unveiled a nanomedicine breakthrough---biodegradable nanoparticles that make antibiotics physically attracted to infected cells.

This nanomedicine application could represent a new drug delivery method to fend off drug resistant infections such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA) and other bacteria. James Hedrick, lead scientist for the project at IBM, said that the findings could lead to a wide variety of uses from healing wounds to emergency uses in a war.

While the breakthrough---detailed on Smart Planet---holds promise in delivering medicine such as antibiotics one of the more striking things is how semiconductor manufacturing applies to producing organic material.

Among the key cross-over areas between chip manufacturing and making biodegradable nanostructures via Hedrick:

  • Chips require small wiring and cramming together ever-shrinking transistors in a precise way. Organic nanostructures require the same.
  • Both require advanced lithography.
  • The chemistry has to be perfect for both chips and nanostructures.
  • Insulating material is needed and it has to drop in size as fast as the lithography.
  • Both semiconductors and nanostructures require electrostatic reactions.
  • Materials are put together to create a reaction. In the nanostructure case, two elements that don't go together were tethered so they could form a structure.
  • Scaling is difficult.

On that final point, Hedrick said that the polymer nanostructures created in his lab are handed off to IBM's synthetic lab where researchers cook up manufacturing processes. IBM does the same for semiconductors. "It's the same process we've been doing for years," said Hedrick. "The difference here is that we won't put this (organic nanostructures) in a fab or a line to make these organic structures."

Hedrick said it's unclear how manufacturing of these nanostructures will play out, but initial research looks promising. Future papers will examine the application and manufacturing end of the nanostructure equation.