Nanotechnology - Small Stuff

The FedInvent Patent Newsletter for September 21, 2021

Good Afternoon from FedInvent,

This Tuesday, the federal innovation ecosphere contributed 166 newly granted patents that benefitted from taxpayer funding.  

The FedInvent Patent Report for September 21, 2021, is ready.  You can access the report here and the Patents Details Page if you want to explore by Department here.

Take Me to the FedInvent Patent Report

There are many new, novel, and useful inventions in this Tuesday’s patents.  You can explore by agency and see this week’s statistics in the FedInvent Patent Report.

Here are the highlights from this week’s collection of taxpayer-funded patents.

Nanotechnology — Atoms, Molecules, and Small Stuff

Nanotechnology is the science and technology that enables scientists to understand, measure, manipulate, and manufacture at the atomic, molecular, and supramolecular (a discrete number of molecules) levels. Nanotechnology aims to create materials, devices, and systems with fundamentally new molecular organization, properties, and functions.  Nanotechnology and nanoscale refer to lengths of 1 to 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, or about the width of 10 hydrogen atoms arranged side by side in a line. Think atoms and molecules and small stuff.  

National Nanotechnology Initiative

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) was launched in 2001.   NNI is a multi-agency R&D initiative to advance understanding and control of matter at the nanoscale, where the physical, chemical, and biological properties of materials differ in fundamental and sometimes useful ways from the properties of individual atoms or bulk matter.  

On December 3, 2003, President Bush signed the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act which authorizes funding for nanotechnology research and development (R&D) over four years, starting in Fiscal Year 2005. This legislation puts into law programs and activities supported by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), one of the highest multi-agency R&D priorities. Since its inception, the 20 agencies that make up the NNI have spent over $31 billion.

The chart above shows NNI spending from 2001-2021.

The five Federal organizations with the most significant investments in nanotechnology research and development, representing 96% of the total, are:

  • HHS/NIH — nanotechnology-based biomedical research at the intersection of life and physical sciences.

  • NSF — fundamental research and education across all disciplines of science and engineering.

  • DOE — fundamental and applied research providing a basis for new and improved energy technologies.

  • DOD — science and engineering research advancing defense and dual-use capabilities.

  • DOC/NIST — fundamental research and development of measurement and fabrication tools, analytical methodologies, metrology, and standards for nanotechnology.

The FedInvent Nanotechnology page has a sample of research funded as part of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.  It also has a list of the topics for SBIR/STTR proposals and the agency that sponsored the topic.

Tuesday’s newly granted patents include seven nanotechnology patents:


The tree fruit industry is a crucial component of the US agricultural sector, representing about 18% of $24.5 billion annual crop production. The yield of these crops is primarily determined by cross-pollination during the brief but critical flowering period. During the transition from bud break to flowering, reproductive buds become increasingly susceptible to cold damage, a perennial threat that can cause severe economic losses. The United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization reports that cold damage has caused more economic losses to US crops than any other weather hazard. A single freezing event can cause hundreds of millions of dollars in crop losses. For example, in 2021, almost 90% of Michigan's apple and cherry crop was lost due to cold damage.

Researchers at the Washington State University invented a nanoparticle composition that can be sprayed on fruit trees before or during freezing temperatures to protect fruit trees from the impact of freezing. The invention is for compositions to protect plants from cold damage, cold damage due to ice nucleation. The compositions are made from materials derived from plants and do not damage a plant when applied, yet they provide excellent protection against cold damage. The compositions and methods are especially useful for protecting, e.g., buds and leaves while the plant is still in the field.  The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded this research.


Researchers at The Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts invented a new drug delivery method.  This research was funded by two institutes at the National Institutes of Health —  the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of Biomedical and Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).


The chickens are back. Last week we learned about the number of food-borne illnesses each year in the United States (1.03 million cases). Today we learn that the globals numbers are enormous. The World Health Organization has estimated that 1.3 billion cases of acute gastroenteritis and diarrhea annually are due to non-typhoidal salmonellosis, with 3 million deaths. This Tuesday, Ohio State University was granted a new patent nanoparticle-based vaccine for chickens to protect the food supply chain from Salmonella. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded this research. USDA is funding a growing arsenal of options for reducing Salmonella. In the meantime, keep wiping down the counter and your hands after handling raw chicken.



The University of Pennsylvania was granted two patents on Tuesday. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of Biomedical and Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at NIH funded this research. 


This is an invention for processing and analyzing small cell populations and biological samples (e.g., a robotically controlled chip-based nanodroplet platform).  The ability to use small samples of cells for biomedical analysis is an important capability to enable new medical discoveries.  

The nanoscale research and development programs at both the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funded this research. Funding came from The DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) under contract to the Battelle Memorial Institute; and, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). NIBIB and NIGMS are part of the National Institutes of Health. This patent is assigned to Battelle.


Northwestern University added to innovation in the drug delivery space.  Its invention is for Nanocarriers that present a versatile method of controlled delivery for bioactive molecules that may otherwise be too hydrophobic or susceptible to degradation for therapeutic applications. 

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Engineering (ENG) Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET) funded this research.

Nano-Enabling Technology from NIST

Another indicia of technology moving from the lab to the marketplace is how many standards NIST has developed. On the nanotechnology front, it’s significant.

NIST has invested considerable resources to develop protocols for measuring nanoscale materials.  You can explore their nanotechnology measurements protocols here.


Most Interesting Patent Drawing

Blink Astro, a SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (SEI) subsidiary, received patent 11128082 for an "Androgynous Connection Device." An Androgynous Connection Device is a self-aligning modular spacecraft docking connector. The technology enables a modular building system for spacecraft, robotic devices, low earth orbit satellites, and geostationary (or geosynchronous) satellites of various shapes and sizes. The modular design of this invention will help accelerate the use and commercialization of satellite technology. DARPA funded this research. SpaceWorks is also working with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate's Commercial Readiness Program.

The drawing above is the most interesting patent drawing this week.

Bayh-Dole Scofflaws

The Bayh-Dole Act is the bill that enables companies, universities, and inventors to retain the title to inventions that are the result of federally funded research and development. Inventors and assignees have three requirements for data on a patent:

  1. Name the agency that funded the work.

  2. Provide the contract or grant number for the work

  3. Acknowledge on the patent that the government has certain rights to the inventions.

Bayh-Dole scofflaws play it free and loose with these requirements. The two top scofflaws so far this year are Raytheon and its many subsidiaries; HRL Laboratories. We also see companies that have offices across the street from Fort Meade, the headquarters of the National Security Agency, who routinely fail to fulfill their requirement. So naturally, the FedInvent prognosticators like to figure out where the money is coming from. (We suspect that Chinese patent readers following the US aerospace and defense markets are good at figuring it out too.)

This week we have two patents without the statutory information required by Bayh-Dole. Both are from; wait for it, Raytheon.  

11125106 — Synchronizing ring surge bumper

11127145 — Image registration to a 3D point set

The first patent is another contribution to Raytheon’s portfolio of gas turbine engine technology most likely funded by the Navy for the F-35 program.  The second is an imaging invention that is useful in geospatial intelligence.  Raytheon has contracts with the National Geospatial Agency and with the Air Force for work on its drone programs.  The funding could come from be either one.  

Best of the Rest

We’re always on the lookout for inventions that are interesting as well as useful.  We also look for patents with the words serendipitous and unexpected discovery. We’ll leave the non-obvious determination to the patent examiners.  Here are a few of the interesting taxpayer-funded inventions we found this week.

The Brigham and Women’s Hospital received a new patent for a pharmaceutical approach to treating sleep apnea. This is one of those serendipitous inventions.  The patent (11123313) says, "Unexpectedly, administration of a therapeutically effective amount of a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor and an antimuscarinic agent for the treatment of a subject having a condition associated with pharyngeal airway collapse while the subject is in a non-fully conscious state, such as OSA, will result in decreased AHI."

The Navy received a patent for electric drivetrain kits for converting all-terrain vehicles into hybrid or electric vehicles (11124057). The patented invention relates to a silent all-terrain vehicle (ATV) drive system which allows for more efficient power transfer and steady torque by reducing the "fight" between the wheel’s speed and any slippage that occurs. The system is quieter and cooler making thermal and audio detection less likely and improves working conditions for the driver. Oh, and it’s also submersible.

Back to the bad bugs.  National Institutes of Health and USDA/NIFA funded another innovation to deal with food-borne illness.  This time it’s norovirus (11125743).

Patents By the Numbers

On Tuesday, September 21, 2021, USPTO granted 7,194 patents.  One hundred sixty-six of the patents benefitted from taxpayer funding.  Within the 166 patents, 160 patents contain government interest statements, and 27 patents have federal government agencies as an assignee or applicant.  These patents have 191 references to funding agencies.

Patent Count by Department

This Tuesday’s FedInvent patents are the work of 571 inventors.  The 544 American inventors come from 41 states and the District of Columbia.  There are 27 foreign inventors from 11 countries.  This includes five inventors from China and three from the Russian Federation.

Count By Technology Center

The HERD, high education R&D from colleges and universities are the assignees on 106 of Tuesday’s patents.  Fourteen patents are the results of collaborations by two universities working together.  Four patents were collaborations between three universities.  One was from inventors at four universities.

That’s this week’s FedInvent patents update.

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Before We Go…

Errata. Last Thursday’s count of new patent applications was 155, not 55 as it appeared in the first paragraph of the newsletter.  It’s been corrected in the copy of the newsletter at Substack too.

We also added a USPTO eGazette Archive page that contains links to the gazettes from 1995-2021.  Two quick notes.  

Please reach out if you have questions or suggestions. You can reach us at 

Thanks for reading FedInvent.  See you on Thursday with the latest published patent applications from the federal innovation ecosphere.


The FedInvent Team

About FedInvent

FedInvent tells the stories of inventors, investigators, and innovators. Wayfinder Digital's FedInvent Project follows the federal innovation ecosphere, taxpayer money, and the inventions it pays.