Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Making microscopic machines using metallic glass

Date:
May 22, 2012
Source:
Elsevier
Summary:
A new manufacturing technology allows researchers to mass produce components for use in next-generation computer storage devices and disposable medical and chemical test kits.

A new manufacturing technology allows researchers to mass produce components for use in next-generation computer storage devices and disposable medical and chemical test kits.

Researchers in Ireland have developed a new technology using materials called bulk metallic glasses to produce high-precision molds for making tiny plastic components. The components, with detailed microscopically patterned surfaces could be used in the next generation of computer memory devices and microscale testing kits and chemical reactors.

In their article published in the latest edition of the open access journal Materials Today, Michael Gilchrist, David Browne and colleagues at University College Dublin explain how bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) were discovered about thirty years ago. These materials are a type of metal alloy, but instead of having a regular, crystalline structure like an everyday metal such as iron or an alloy like bronze, the material's atoms are arranged haphazardly. This disordered, or amorphous atomic structure is similar to the amorphous structure of the silicon and oxygen atoms in the glass we use for windows and drinking vessels.

The haphazard arrangement of atoms in BMGs means that they have some very different mechanical properties from conventional metals. They can be heated and molded like plastics and they can be machined with microscopic precision below the grain size of conventional metals. BMGs also retain the strength and durability of normal metals.

Gilchrist and his colleagues have now exploited the haphazard nature of the atoms in BMGs to allow them to machine microscopic features on to the surface of a BMG. This is not possible with conventional metals such as tool steel used in molds which cannot typically be machined with better than 10 micrometer precision because of its crystalline grain structure. They have then used the resulting strong and durable metallic devices to carry out injection molding of plastic components with microscopic surface patterns using a straightforward tool production route.

"Our technology is a new process for mass producing high-value polymer components, on the micrometer and nanometer-scale," explains Gilchrist. "This is a process by which high-volume quantities of plastic components can be mass produced with one hundred times more precision, for costs that are at least ten times cheaper than currently possible."

The research team explains that with BMG injection molding equipment it is now possible to create millimeter-sized polymer components that have surface features of a similar size to mammalian cells at 10 micrometers or even the smallest viruses at less than 100 nanometers. The new manufacturing process could thus allow ‘lab-on-a-chip’ devices to be constructed that could handle and test samples containing single cells and viruses or large biomolecules including DNA and proteins.

"These precision plastic parts are the high value components of microfluidic devices, lab-on-chip diagnostic devices, micro implantable components and MEMS sensors," Gilchrist adds.

Once the technology is extended to the tens of nanometers length scale, the team suggests that it could be used to make high-volume, low-cost, information storage systems. The team is currently optimizing their technology with this goal in mind.

The research team concludes, "The worldwide trend of miniaturization means that these devices and components are getting progressively smaller and smaller; the problem faced by today’s technologies is that they will soon be unable to manufacture at these smaller dimensions at competitive prices. If you just consider the microfluidic devices market without the biological content: this is forecast to reach $5 billion by 2016."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Nan Zhang, Cormac J. Byrne, David J. Browne, and Michael D. Gilchrist. Towards nano injection molding. Materials Today, Volume 15, Issue 5, Page 216 (2012) [link]

Cite This Page:

Elsevier. "Making microscopic machines using metallic glass." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120522084518.htm>.
Elsevier. (2012, May 22). Making microscopic machines using metallic glass. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120522084518.htm
Elsevier. "Making microscopic machines using metallic glass." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120522084518.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Commercial aircraft deliveries rose seven percent at Boeing, prompting the aerospace company to boost full-year profit guidance- though quarterly revenues missed analyst estimates. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Daimler kicks off a round of second-quarter earnings results from Europe's top carmakers with a healthy set of numbers - prompting hopes that stronger sales in Europe will counter weakness in emerging markets. Hayley Platt reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

Reuters - US Online Video (July 22, 2014) Ten years after releasing its initial report, members of the 9/11 Commission warn of the "waning sense of urgency" in combating terrorists attacks. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:
from the past week

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