ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. A dragonfly as small as a dust mote, its four tiny wings beating like it had momentarily alit on a lily pad, and a highly sensitive microvalve were the big winners in this year's student design contest for extraordinarily tiny devices at Sandia National Laboratories.
The winners Texas Tech University for the novel insect and Carnegie Mellon University for the valve were announced at a recent Sandia awards ceremony.
There, student researchers presented their microelectromechanical system (MEMS) designs to the scrutiny of Sandia engineers. Sandia will fabricate all students' design submissions using Sandia's advanced fabrication process (called SUMMiT V). The procedure makes MEMS devices with five levels of polysilicon (the most of any standard process), and is especially well-suited for making the complex mechanisms dreamed up by student contestants.
Other institutions competing at the annual event included the universities of Oklahoma and Utah, and the Air Force Institute of Technology.
The dragonfly opens new possibilities in the design of aerial surveillance devices, which have many uses, from quantifying the radiation leaking from damaged Japanese nuclear reactors to delineating enemy positions. Components in state-of-the-art micro air machines range from 15 cm to slightly less than 1 cm. The insect-inspired device is smaller, with biologically mimetic wings approximately 0.5 millimeters long (about the width of five human hairs) and 0.1 mm wide. It is intended to generate aerodynamic lift and thrust by flapping its wings instead of a motor-driven propeller or jet thrust. Flapping is achieved when small intermittent electric currents cause thermal expansion and contraction in the wings. Clever engineering uses the wing material's response to create strokes that are more aerodynamic and hence more efficient.
"Among the countless insect species able to fly, we chose the dragonfly because it fla
|Contact: neal singer|
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories