ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., June 10, 2008 -- A mechanical micromuscle with nanoscopic movements and a microcreep-and-stress tester, both designed by students, were the big winners in Sandia National Laboratories’ fourth annual University Alliance Design Competition for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) designs.
The University of Oklahoma, under the leadership of faculty advisor Harold Stalford, won in the novel design category for a mechanical micromuscle powered by thermal actuators that allow a mechanical arm to operate with nanoscale functionality above, to the side of and in the plane of its operating chip.
This design from the University of Oklahoma demonstrates a mechanical micromuscle that might be able to perform microsurgical operations. (Photo courtesy Sandia National Laboratories)
The potential applications of the microrobotic arm include microsurgical operations and assembly of 3-D MEMS devices. The device’s thermal actuators require less voltage than similar devices (usually not capable of such precise movement) that rely upon electrostatic actuators, Sandia said in a statement. (Whitepaper: mems.sandia.gov/ua/08-doc/OU_Whitepaper_Novel_Design_2008.pdf)
To demonstrate its functionality, the components were placed as a tool on an operating platform designed last year at the university.
The student team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, under the leadership of Professor Ioannis Chasiotis, won in the characterization, reliability and nanoscale phenomenom category by creating a design for the first MEMS platform able to perform creep-and-stress relaxation tests on polymeric, metallic and biological nanofibers.
The components are designed to test time-dependent behavior at even submicroNewton-force levels on polymeric and biological nanofibers, and to report in “real time,” as changes occur. Thermal grips mounted on a comb-drive actuator generate a predetermined amount of sample deformation, adding to the device’s accuracy, Sandia said. (Whitepaper: mems.sandia.gov/ua/08-doc/UIUC_white%20paper.pdf)
This University of Illinois design is for a MEMS platform able to perform creep and stress relaxation tests on polymeric, metallic biological nanofibers. (Photo courtesy Sandia National Laboratories)
First-place winners (student lead and sponsoring professor) in both categories were invited to to present their designs to Sandia’s review team, meet with MEMS experts and tour the facilities. All other participants were welcome to attend the awards ceremony and present their designs, pending Sandia technical approval.
Twenty schools participate in the alliance. This year, five schools entered seven designs in the contest. All contest participants' designs are fabricated in Sandia’s MEMS production facilities, where a design competition reticle is set aside for the purpose, said Mark Platzbecker, who leads Sandia’s MEMS Core Technologies technical team. Fabrication of the students' designs is expected to start by June 15, and parts will be produced by Sept. 15, he said.
For more information, visit: mems.sandia.gov/ua/contest.html
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