WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers have created new "microtweezers" capable of manipulating objects to build tiny structures, print coatings to make advanced sensors, and grab and position live stem cell spheres for research.
The microtweezers might be used to assemble structures in microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, which contain tiny moving parts. MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes currently are being used in commercial products. A wider variety of MEMS devices, however, could be produced through a manufacturing technology that assembles components like microscopic Lego pieces moved individually into place with microtweezers, said Cagri Savran (pronounced Chary Savran), an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.
"We've shown how this might be accomplished easily, using new compact and user-friendly microtweezers to assemble polystyrene spheres into three-dimensional shapes," he said.
Research findings were detailed in a paper that appeared online in December in the Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems, or JMEMS. The paper was written by Savran, mechanical engineering graduate students Bin-Da Chan and Farrukh Mateen, electrical and computer engineering graduate student Chun-Li Chang, and biomedical engineering doctoral student Kutay Icoz.
The new tool contains three main parts: a thimble knob from a standard micrometer, a two-pronged tweezer made from silicon, and a "graphite interface," which converts the turning motion of the thimble knob into a pulling-and-pushing action to open and close the tweezer prongs. No electrical power sources are needed, increasing the potential for practical applications. Other types of microtweezers have been developed and are being used in research. However, the new design is simpler both to manufacture and operate, Savran said.
The design contains a one-piece "compliant structure," which is springy like a bobby pin or a pap
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