In the science of the small, precision and accuracy really count.
Won-jong Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University, is developing a device that can be used to precisely position objects in nanotechnology and even telesurgery.
Nanotechnology is the building of things one atom at a time with miniaturized robotics. Positioning devices, such as the one Kim is developing, are used in nanotechnology to move an object being studied or worked on into the precise position needed for study.
In telesurgery, for example, a surgeon a few feet or hundreds of miles away could use one of these devices to precisely position the robot performing the surgery.
Kim's device achieves six degrees of freedom. That is, it moves on three axes - forward and backward, left and right, up and down - and in a circle around each of those axes, unlike conventional positioning devices that move in a straight line or in a circle on only one axis. Six conventional devices have to be stacked together to achieve the range of motion of Kim's single device.
The device uses powerful magnets to hold itself together. The parts don't touch but are rather held in place by magnetic force, eliminating the friction that makes nanoscale positioning so difficult.
"Compared with conventional technology, the main advantage of this technology is that it eliminates mechanical contact and friction," Kim said. "It also improves accuracy and resolution, decreases manufacturing costs and increases reliability."
Kim's research is supported by a Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
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