Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

MIT’s HexFlex Manipulates The Nanoscopic; Could Impact Fiber-optics, Other Industries

Date:
October 1, 2003
Source:
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology
Summary:
Assembling a machine sounds straightforward, but what if the components of that machine are nanoscopic? Similarly, bringing together the ends of two cables is simple unless those cables have a core diameter many times smaller than a human hair, as is the case with fiber optics.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Assembling a machine sounds straightforward, but what if the components of that machine are nanoscopic? Similarly, bringing together the ends of two cables is simple unless those cables have a core diameter many times smaller than a human hair, as is the case with fiber optics.

Although there are devices on the market with similar credentials, they are expensive and have inherent limitations. Using a fundamentally new design, an MIT team has invented the HexFlex Nanomanipulator that's not only inexpensive but performs better in many ways than its competitors.

The HexFlex, developed by MIT inventors led by Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Martin Culpepper, has won a 2003 R&D 100 Award. The awards honor the 100 most technologically significant new products and processes, as determined by the editors of R&D magazine and more than 50 experts.

"A traditional nanomanipulator is the size of a bread box and costs more than a new SUV," Culpepper said. The MIT device is three to four inches tall by six inches in diameter "and could be manufactured for about $3,000."

The principal component of the HexFlex is a flat, six-pronged "star" of aluminum. Three of those prongs are mounted on an aluminum base. The other three are actually tabs that can be moved in six different directions thanks to a system of magnet-coil actuators. The device's name reflects that six-axis capability (hex) and compliant (flex) structure.

Manipulating the tabs changes the position of the "stage" at the center of the device. For example, pressing down on all three tabs causes the stage itself to move up. The device to be manipulated--whether the end of a fiber-optic cable or part of a nanomachine--is on the stage.

The HexFlex design is radically different from current nanomanipulators, which rely on "decades-old machine design paradigms," Culpepper said. For one, the star-shaped principal component of the HexFlex is monolithic (one piece) and thus requires no assembly. In addition, the HexFlex achieves motion through flexing of its structure, which is more precise than the motion of jointed components used in older paradigms.

Other nanomanipulators are actually small robots with several maneuvering joints. That makes them expensive to build (around $50,000). "Costs of alignment manipulators must be reduced, as they often contribute more than 50 percent of small-scale packaging cost," wrote Culpepper and Gordon Anderson (S.M. 2002) in a paper about the HexFlex to appear in the Journal of Precision Engineering.

Standard nanomanipulators have a working range of only 700 micrometers, or five times the diameter of a human hair. "If a manipulator is limited to such a small range, it's not as practical for emerging nanomanufacturing processes," said Culpepper. If a manufacturer wants to align additional objects on the same platform and they're outside the 700-micrometer range, "you'd have to add an additional nanomanipulator (and cost)," Culpepper said. "The HexFlex range is double that of state-of-the-art machines."

The HexFlex also can move in finer increments than other six-axis nanomanipulators. "With other machines, you can 'step' in increments of 10 nanometers. We can do better than three nanometers," Culpepper said. The HexFlex also has 300 times better thermal stability, which helps to ensure nanometer-level accuracy.

A second device in development by Culpepper and Shih-Chi Chen, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, could impact nanomanipulation in other ways. The MicroHexFlex, which is only one millimeter in diameter, is designed to reduce energy loss in fiber optic systems by providing improved alignment between components. "This is significant as a large portion of Earth's energy expenditures will be used in communications systems," Culpepper said. The MicroHexFlex could also be used in a lab-on-a-chip, manipulating particles or fluids.

The HexFlex was built and tested without any outside sponsorship. The MicroHexFlex was supported by Walsan-Lihwa. In addition, Chen recently received a Martin Fellowship through MIT's Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.

This is Culpepper's second R&D 100 Award. He won the first with MIT Professor Alex Slocum and colleagues in 1999 for an invention that cuts costs and boosts the performance of engines.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. "MIT’s HexFlex Manipulates The Nanoscopic; Could Impact Fiber-optics, Other Industries." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 October 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031001062537.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. (2003, October 1). MIT’s HexFlex Manipulates The Nanoscopic; Could Impact Fiber-optics, Other Industries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031001062537.htm
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. "MIT’s HexFlex Manipulates The Nanoscopic; Could Impact Fiber-optics, Other Industries." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031001062537.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 29, 2014) CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, celebrates 60 years of bringing nations together through science. As Joanna Partridge reports from inside the famous science centre it's also planning to turn the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator back on after an upgrade. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
This 'Invisibility Cloak' Is Simpler Than Most

This 'Invisibility Cloak' Is Simpler Than Most

Newsy (Sep. 28, 2014) Researchers from the University of Rochester have created a type of invisibility cloak with simple focal lenses. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Corvette Can Secretly Record Convos And Get You Arrested

New Corvette Can Secretly Record Convos And Get You Arrested

Newsy (Sep. 28, 2014) The 2015 Corvette features valet mode – which allows the owner to secretly record audio and video – but in many states that practice is illegal. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins