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Advanced Chemical Sensing Method and Apparatus

Conventional chemical sensors or chemical resistors detect the molecule concentration by monitoring the resistance change caused by the reaction near the sensing material surface. One of the problems with these systems is with drift, when over time the analyte molecules poison the device’s sensing surface, causing weaker performance on selectivity and sensitivity. This often requires rigorous and timely calibrations to the sensor, which involves human intervention, and often times complete sensor replacement. To address this problem, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a vertical platform that dramatically improves the sensor’s ability to manage and recover from the poison environments. By examining and manipulating the sensing plane vis-à-vis the near field surface, researchers have demonstrated an effective and robust chemical sensing platform for a range of gas sensing applications.

Chemically Grown Graphene And Molybdenum Disulfide (Mos2) Junctions

Next-generation electronics calls for new materials beyond silicon for increased functionality, performance, and scaling in integrated circuits.  Carbon nanotubes and semiconductor nanowires are at the forefront of these materials, but have challenges due to the complex fabrication techniques required for large-scale applications.  Two-dimensional gapless graphene and semiconducting transition metal dichalcogenides have emerged as promising electronic materials due to their atomic thickness, chemical stability and scalability.  Difficulties in the assembly of two-dimensional electronic structures arise in the precise spatial control over the metallic and semiconducting atomic thin films.  Ultimately, this impedes the maturity of integrating atomic elements in modern electronics.   Using chemical vapor deposition, UC Berkeley researchers have demonstrated that a single layer of semiconducting MoS2 can be grown onto the edges of highly conductive single-layer graphene and fill empty channels in a large scale.  This serves a two-fold purpose: 1) Graphene as a growth mask enables the selective growth of a single-layer semiconductor for arbitrary circuits writing, and 2) Graphene enables a more efficient contact to the MoS2 with a lower contact resistance than traditional metals.  

Printable Repulsive-Force Electrostatic Actuator Methods and Device

Flexible electrostatic actuators are well designed for a range of commercial applications, from small micro-mechanical robotics to large vector displays or sound wall systems. Electrostatic actuation provides efficient, low-power, fast-response driving and control of movable nano-, micro-, and macro-structures. While commercially available electrostatic actuators have the requisite high levels of mechanical energy / force for some applications, their energy requirements are typically orders of magnitude higher than what is needed in large-area, low-power applications. Moreover, conventional approaches to these types of electrostatic actuators have limited design geometries and are prone to reliability issues like electrical shorts. To address these problems, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have experimented with planar electrostatic actuators using novel printing and electrode patterning and engineering techniques. The team has demonstrated a repulsive-force electrostatic actuator device (100 mm x 60 mm achieved) with extremely high field strength and high voltage operation and without insulator coatings or air breakdown.

RF-Powered Micromechanical Clock Generator

Realizing the potential of massive sensor networks requires overcoming cost and power challenges. When sleep/wake strategies can adequately limit a network node's sensor and wireless power consumption, then the power limitation comes down to the real-time clock (RTC) that synchronizes sleep/wake cycles. With typical RTC battery consumption on the order of 1µW, a low-cost printed battery with perhaps 1J of energy would last about 11 days. However, if a clock could bleed only 10nW from this battery, then it would last 3 years. To attain such a clock, researchers at UC Berkeley developed a mechanical circuit that harnesses squegging to convert received RF energy (at -58dBm) into a local clock while consuming less than 17.5nW of local battery power. The Berkeley design dispenses with the conventional closed-loop positive feedback approach to realize an RCT (along with its associated power consumption) and removes the need for a sustaining amplifier altogether. 

Shaped Piezoelectric Micromachined Ultrasonic Transducer Device

Piezoelectric Micromachined Ultrasonic Transducers (pMUTs) have attracted industry attention for their good acoustic matching, small geometry, low cost-by-batch fabrication, and compatibilities with CMOS and consumer electronics. While planar pMUTs have reasonable performance over bulk piezoelectric transducers, certain deficits remain in terms of coupling and acoustic pressure outputs, DC displacements, bandwidth, and power consumption. To address these deficiencies, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a next generation of shaped pMUTs which are no longer fully defined by resonance frequency and can accommodate larger pressure outputs and bandwidths. This new pMUT apparatus can significantly boost overall performance while dramatically reducing power as compared to flat diaphragm state-of-the-art pMUTs.

Low-variability, Self-assembled Monolayer Doping Methods

Semiconductor materials are fundamental materials in all modern electronic devices. Continuous demand for faster and more energy-efficient electronics is pushing miniaturization and scaling to unprecedented levels. Controlled and uniform doping of semiconductor materials with atomic accuracy is critical to materials and device performance. In particular, junction depth and dopant concentration need to be tightly controlled to minimize contact resistance, as well as variability effects due to random dopant fluctuations in the channel. Conventional doping methods such as ion implantation is imprecise and can have large variability effect. Moreover, energetic introduction of dopant species will often cause crystal damage, leading to incompatibility with nanostructured-materials and further performance degradation. To address these problems, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have experimented with an alternative approach to a wafer-scale surface doping technique first developed at the UC Berkeley in 2007. The team has demonstrated a controlled approach for monolayer doping (MLD) in which gas phase dopant-containing molecules form low-variability, self-assembled monolayers (SAM) on target semiconductor surfaces.

Apparatus and Method for 2D-based Optoelectronic Imaging

The use of electric fields for signaling and manipulation is widespread, mediating systems spanning the action potentials of neuron and cardiac cells to battery technologies and lab-on-a-chip devices. Current FET- and dye-based techniques to detect electric field effects are systematically difficult to scale, costly, or perturbative. Researchers at the University of California Berkeley have developed an optical detection platform, based on the unique optoelectronic properties of two-dimensional materials that permits high-resolution imaging of electric fields, voltage, acidity, strain and bioelectric action potentials across a wide field-of-view.

Improved 3D Transistor

This case helps reinvent the transistor by building on the success of Berkeley’s 3D FinFET/Trigate/Tri-Gate methods and devices, with increased focus on the negative capacitance of the MOS-channel and ferroelectrics, and an unconventional effective oxide thickness approach to the gate dielectric. Proof of concept devices have been demonstrated at 30nm gate length and allow for use of thinner ferroelectric films than 2D negative capacitance transistors (e.g. see http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/techreports/ucb/text/EECS-2014-226.pdf ). The devices also performed at low operating voltage which lowers operating power.

Methods and Apparatus for EUV Mask Defect Inspection

Since the 1970s, the semiconductor industry has strived to shrink the cost and size of circuit patterns printed onto computer chips in accordance with Moore’s law, doubling the number of transistors on a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) every two years. The introduction of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, printing chips using 13-nm-wavelength light, opens the way to future generations of smaller, faster, and cheaper semiconductors. There are serious challenges with EUV masks as compared with conventional optical transmissive mask behavior including the multi-layer stack of silicon and molybdenum as a complex reflector of EUV light. Moreover, research into non-optical solutions (e.g. e-beam) is expected to take many years and $100Ms of dollars to reach market maturity. To address these problems, researchers at UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab worked with the IMPACT+ research team to create a unique optical approach called Optimized Pupil Engineering (OPE) which can detect and characterize mask defects with an 80% enhancement on defect Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) as compared to current systems. This significant improvement reduces false positives and includes pattern and multilayer defects, while it leverages optical-based reticle platforms on the market today. OPE could one day be also used to characterize a variety of semiconductor masks and not limited to EUV lithography.

Methods of Forming Dopant-free, Asymmetric Heterocontact Structures

Worldwide photovoltaic capacity reached 178GW in 2014 and with an additional 55GW slated for deployment. With installed capacity projected to more than double by 2020, solar power is anticipated to become one of the largest sources of electricity, with solar photovoltaics representing about 16 percent of total. Current photovoltaic cell technology is based on crystalline silicon (c-Si) which generally uses doped homojunctions to create pathways of asymmetrical conductivity for electron and hole transport. This approach is limited by a host of interrelated optical, transport and recombination-based losses, most notably parasitic absorption and Auger recombination. Moreover, there are technological challenges and scaling problems associated with doping under high temperatures and with small contact fractions. To address these problems, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed advanced contact structures, which replace these doped regions, using alkali metal fluorides and metal oxides. Early lab results are reporting competitive cell efficiencies approaching 20%. These cells were fabricated using low-temperatures and no lithography, introducing potential for gains on both sides of the cost-to-performance ratio for c-Si photovoltaics.

Monolithic 3D Printing of Smart Objects

The number of interconnected sensors and actuators are expected to grow beyond thousands of units per person by 2020, and new manufacturing processes will be required for personalization and seamless integration of such devices into our surrounding objects. One major general challenge for manufacturers is with scaling production of mechanically sophisticated and tailored objects while maintaining or improving efficiency. 3D printing may be an excellent candidate for manufacturing at scale as it enables on-demand and rapid manufacturing of user-defined objects. However, traditional 3D approaches have a unique set of challenges due to incompatible processing approaches with metals with plastics. To address these challenges, researchers at UC Berkeley have developed novel 3D printing techniques for fully-integrated smart objects that embed liquid metal-based passive/active components and silicon integrated circuits to achieve greater system-level functionalities. For demonstration, UC researchers created a form-fitting glove with embedded programmable heater, temperature sensor, and the associated control electronics for thermotherapeutic treatment, specifically tailored to an individual’s body. These novel processes can enable assembly of electronic components into complex 3D architectures, which may provide a new platform for creating personalized smart objects in volume.

Fast Micro- or Nano-scale Resolution Printing Methods and Apparatus

Fast, affordable three-dimensional printing or 3D manufacturing at micron or nano-scale is a holy grail for many high-tech industries. Current state of the art has generally been limited to smallest feature sizes in the 5-10 micron range, with metal-based 3D printer systems held at 100 microns. Another problem is 3D printers are limited to polymer media or require large laser sources. To address these issues, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed methods and devices to efficiently deposit desirable constituent materials (e.g. metallic, semiconducting, insulating, etc.) with precise micron and nano-scale resolution and without expensive laser requirements. These methods show promise in terms of fast sub-5 micron print speeds, material versatility, and structure sophistication. This is an entirely new fabrication tool, which is unencumbered by the limitations of existing 3D print-like functions, paving the way to arbitrary 2D and 3D nanoscale structures and devices that cannot be fabricated in any other way.

Cross Reactive FET Array for Gas Mixture Detection

Conventional chemical sensor discriminates different analytes by rejecting the interference using selective decorations on the sensor body. A cross-reactive chemical sensor array discriminates different analytes by interpreting the collective sensor response using signal processing technique, and solves for the interference. Commercial sensor manufacturers search for the optimal choice of material, identifier and the signal processing technique to maximize the sensor performance in terms of chemical detection and discrimination. To address the need, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a platform with 2D material incorporated in a cross-reactive field effect transistor (FET) sensor array. By examining and manipulating the properties of the sensor array, researchers have invented a low power, high efficiency, and versatile chemical sensing technology that is promising for commercialization.

Low Capacitance/High Speed Bipolar Phototransistor

The performance of optoelectronic links is very strongly related to the sensitivity of the detector on the receiver end. Conventional receivers include a photodiode whose signal is sent to amplifiers until it is strong enough to be used in microelectronic circuits. The energy cost of amplification is very high and could be significantly reduced if the capacitance of the photodiode and first stage of amplification were smaller. In order to be useful for this application, a phototransistor must have several features: - Low capacitance - High speed - Large photon absorption volume Unfortunately, for conventional bipolar phototransistors, these requirements are contradictory. Indeed the photon absorption length in typical semiconductors is on the order of microns, while the speed requirement only allows transit regions for amplified carriers of a few tens of nanometers at best. This is over a 100x size mismatch. Increasing any other dimension (that is not the transit direction) results in prohibitively high capacitances. This invention offers a solution to these issues consisting of a new kind of semiconductor phototransistor device, which integrates a large PIN-photodiode with a bipolar junction transistor (or Heterojunction Bipolar transistor). 

Enhanced Patterning Of Integrated Circuits

Information and communication technologies rely on integrated circuits (ICs) or “chips.” Increased integration has improved system performance and energy efficiency, and lowered the manufacturing cost per component. Moore’s Law predicts that the number of transistors on an IC will double every two years, yet industry experts predict that we are reaching economic limits of traditional circuit patterning processes. Photolithographic patterning is best suited to print linear features that are evenly spaced. The smaller or more complex the shape, the more likely the printed pattern will be blurred and unusable. Although multiple-patterning techniques can be used to increase feature density on ICs, they bring a high additional cost to the process. This means that the most advanced ICs available today have a high density of features, but are restricted to having simple patterns and are increasingly expensive to produce. Without innovations in production techniques, Moore’s Law will reach its end in the near future.  To address this issue, researchers at UC Berkeley have developed a one-step method to increase feature density on chips. This method is capable of achieving arbitrarily small feature size, and self-aligns to pre-existing features on the surface formed by other techniques. 

Self-Anchoring Nickel Microelectrodes Embedded In Thermoplastics For Lab-On-Chip Devices

Microfluidic technologies have demonstrated great potential in a wide variety of fields, providing accurate and reliable management of small samples and reagents. Healthcare is particularly well-positioned to benefit from this technology with an ongoing rise in demand for point-of-care (POC) health technologies, including concepts such as lab-on-a-chip (LOC). Despite their promise, these LOC devices have not been widely commercialized or adopted primarily because of the critical transition from an initial research design into a final product. To overcome this challenge, differences in the fabrication methods used in the research process and in final industrial production need to be eliminated.To meet this challenge, investigators at UC Berkeley have made a groundbreaking development creating microfluidic devices in plastics, bridging the fabrication process from lab to commercial manufacturing. Utilizing hot embossing, a new fabrication methodology has been developed for embedding metallic microelectrodes in thermoplastic microfluidic devices. Microelectrodes are first fabricated on steel wafers by means of photolithographic techniques and electrode position, and then transferred to the plastic using hot embossing. The unique shape of the microelectrodes provides self-anchoring mechanisms that ensure structural stability and reliability of the devices. A wide variety of thermoplastics can be used in this process, including polycarbonate, polymethylmethacrylate, cyclic olefin copolymer, and others. Moreover, this technique can be combined with embedded silicon-based sensors providing the necessary connectronics and access to the miniaturized biological or physical sample. With this rapid fabrication method for microfluidic prototypes it is possible to scale the fabrication to a large series of devices easily, shortening the transition of current research to commercial microfluidic devices and revolutionizing current production practices.

Methods to Produce Ultra-Thin Copper Nanowires for Transparent Conductors

The disclosure provides innovative synthesis methods to produce uniform, ultrathin and high-quality metal nanostructures. In certain embodiments, the synthesis methods disclosed herein are solution based, therefore affording scalability and allowing for the production of metal nanostructures (e.g. Cu-nanowires ) that can have varying diameters, e.g., between 1 nm to 70 nm. The resulting metal nanostructures can be used to construct transparent electrodes that have lower costs, better transparency, and superior flexibility in comparison to conventional metal-oxide conductors, such as indium tin oxide (ITO) .

Functional Graphene Nanostructure Devices From Polymers

The rapid expansion of data-intensive information technology has highlighted the urgent need for a successor to the silicon based complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) integrated circuit (IC) architecture to continuously improve the performance of digital data management. Over the last decade, the evolution of scaling of dimensions, energy efficiency, and processor speed has slowed significantly due to the limitations imposed by a photolithographic top-down approach and the limited control of inorganic semiconductor material properties at sub-10nm dimensions. Carbon-based low-dimensional materials may aid problems with transistor scaling, speed, and energy efficiency for future IC generations. To help address these needs, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed unique heterostructures based on innovative graphene nanoribbon (GNR)-based materials and methods. These structures are chemically synthesized from the bottom up using rational polymerization methods, producing GNRs with uniform sub-5nm widths and with atomically precise edges. This approach shows promise towards producing GNRs of identical molecular structure in bulk.

Chemical-Sensitive Field-Effect Transistor

Conventional metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) technology consists of a source, drain, gate, and substrate. The chemical field-effect transistor (chemFET) is a type of a field-effect transistor acting as a chemical sensor, and is similar to MOSFET except for the gate structures. Modern industrial players seek higher-sensitivity technologies which are small, durable, efficient, and versatile. Further advances in these materials and structures could enable many new kinds of layered semiconductors and devices. To address need, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed chemical-sensitive field-effect transistor (CS-FET) platform technology. By exploiting selective thin films incorporated into the CS-FET, researchers have created chemical sensors with commercial promise in terms of chemical-versatility and low-power. 

Regenerative Thermophotovoltaics

Thermophotovoltaics (TPVs) converts infrared rays from a very hot thermal source into photovoltaic electricity. This process is analogous to using solar cells, but TPVs use thermal emitter and a photovoltaic diode cell to change energy forms. Conventional silicon solar cell is effectively a TPV device in which the sun functions as the emitter, and the cell’s silicon structures absorb in the visible portion of the spectrum. Many solar cell systems neglect the small infrared photon emissions due to known physical and design constraints. Thermophotovoltaic devices are uniquely positioned to overcome that limitation by harvesting the unconverted thermal-infrared emissions. Historically, the efficiency for such devices (with spectral selectivity) reach only 15%. For a world with increasing energy and conservation needs, a thermophotovoltaic module solution would need to perform at higher efficiencies for a variety of high- and low-power demand scenarios. To address these problems, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed the "Regenerative Thermophotovoltaics" framework which is designed to exploit the small infrared photons typically lost in thermophotovoltaic cells, while architecting the device for optimal variable-demand performance. The Berkeley device framework effectively captures and recycles unused photons in the photovoltaic cell that are generally below ~0.8eV energy. By putting these thermal-infrared photons to work, conversion efficiencies >50% may be produced, which could contend with conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) approaches. 

A Thin Film Vls Semiconductor Growth Process

A team of Berkeley Lab researchers has invented the first vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) growth technology yielding III-V photovoltaics. The photovoltaics achieve 25% power conversion efficiency at a cost significantly lower than current approaches due to the non-epitaxial processing approach and high material utilization rate. The films have grain sizes of 100-200 microns (100 times larger than yielded from conventional growth processes), minority carrier lifetimes up to 2.5 nanoseconds and electron mobilities reaching 500 cm2/V-s. Under one-sun equivalent illumination, an open circuit voltage of up to 930 mV can be reached, just 40 mV lower than measured on a single crystal wafer. Berkeley Lab researchers fabricated continuous thin films of polycrystalline indium phosphide (InP) directly on metal foils by, first, depositing an indium (In) thin film directly on molybdenum (Mo) foil. Next, they deposit a thin capping layer to prevent dewetting of the indium from the substrate during subsequent high temperature processing steps. The resulting stack (Mo – In – capping layer) is then heated in the presence of phosphorous precursors causing supersaturation of the liquid indium with phosphorous, followed by precipitation of InP, thus turning all the In into InP. III-V photovoltaics deliver the highest power conversion efficiencies, but significant processing costs (expensive materials and equipment, low precursor utilization rate) have limited their use. Berkeley Lab’s non-epitaxial growth technology overcomes these limitations to deliver a promising low cost solar cell.

Novel Porous Organic Polymers for Ammonia Adsorption

Ammonia is used in many industrial and commercial applications, for example in the manufacture of fertilizers and cleaners.  However, ammonia is toxic at high concentrations and, therefore, safe storage and transportation of ammonia is required. In addition, trace amounts of ammonia in the atmosphere contaminate and interfere with certain industrial processes, such as semiconductor fabrication, which requires ultra-pure air. Proper ammonia management includes the adsorption of the gas under each of these pressure regimes: high-pressure adsorption for safe storage and transportation and low-pressure adsorption for the removal of trace contaminants from the ambient air. Current methods of adsorption include simple salts, such as MgCl2, but these are not efficient for low-pressure adsorption and furthermore their ammonia cycle is inefficient, requiring significant heat exchange and large changes in volume. Investigators at UC Berkeley have developed a novel polymer for ammonia adsorption that uses acidic materials placed in a spatial arrangement that allows for cooperative adsorption. This not only increases the efficiency of adsorption but also is effective at both high-pressure and low-pressure ammonia adsorption, resulting in multiple applications of the technology. 

Pyroelectric MEMS Infrared Sensor with Numerous Wavelength Absorptions

In recent years, gas sensors for industrial applications have experienced great advances through rapid evolution of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). As a result of increased government legislative pressure on industrial health and safety, commercial customers are demanding integrated smart sensor technology and systems which leverage MEMS for small footprint, low cost, and high-performance features. Market researchers suggest double-digit compound annual growth rates for MEMS sensors through 2018, with the fastest growth is expected in the semiconductor sensor base. Traditional infrared gas analyzers determine the absorption of an emitted infrared light source through a certain air sample. Nondispersive infrared technology (NDIR) detects certain gas by detecting the absorption of infrared wavelengths that is characteristic of that gas. NDIR detectors are the industry standard method of measuring the concentration of carbon oxides. Researchers at UC Berkeley and Davis have successfully demonstrated pyroelectric infrared detectors that exhibit high sensitivity and reliable performance for advanced gas analyses. The MEMS technology is well suited for constant monitoring in harsh environments where long term stability is important, such as petroleum, medical, and industrial monitoring settings.

Highly Responsive PMUT

Ultrasonic imaging is one of the most important and widely used medical imaging techniques, which uses high-frequency sound waves to view soft tissues such as muscles, internal organs as well as blood flowing through blood vessels in real time. With the advancement of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), ultrasonic devices operated based on plate flexural mode have shown remarkable improvements in bandwidth, cost, and yield over the conventional thickness-mode PZT sensors. MEMS fabrication technologies can be utilized to realize both capacitive (cMUTs) and piezoelectric (pMUTs) micromachined ultrasonic transducers However, these devices could enjoy much more widespread applications if they were adjustable , better focused with lower energy requirements.   In response to this challenge, Investigators at University of California at Berkeley have developed innovative design and fabrication concept to make piezoelectric micromachined ultrasonic transducer (pMUT) based on a CMOS compatible fabrication process for the first time. The prototype device shows a resonant frequency in the MHz range with a DC displacement exceeding 1nm/V (more than one order of magnitude higher than typical pMUTs at similar frequencies). As such, this new class of pMUTs has the potential of replacing the state-of-art pMUTs for high electromechanical coupling ultrasonic transducer arrays.

NiO Nanoparticle Synthesis and Solution-Processed NiO Thin Film

Nickel oxide (NiO) films have been deposited by sputtering, thermal evaporation, chemical vapor deposition, pulsed laser deposition or electrochemical deposition which require either a high vacuum chamber or high energy consuming procedures and have limitations in substrate selection. Similarly, nickel (Ni) films have been deposited by sputtering, pulsed laser deposition, and atomic layer deposition, which require either a high vacuum chamber or have limitations in substrate selection. To help solve these challenges, researchers at Berkeley have successfully demonstrated new techniques for producing NiO nanoparticle solutions under ambient conditions. Early results suggest promising microstructural and electrical characteristics. The new compositions and structures may have broad applications from advanced semiconductor products to energy production and storage.

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