Micro-machines Offer New Possibilities

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Aug. 12 (UPI) — Tiny self-calibrating machines could be super accurate sensors for crime scene forensics, environmental testing and medical diagnostics, researchers say.

Purdue University scientists say a new technology allowing tiny machines called micro electromechanical systems to “self-calibrate” could help create a “nose-on-a-chip” for tracking criminal suspects, sensors for identifying hazardous materials or laboratory tools for specialists working in nanotechnology and biotechnology, a university release said Tuesday.

“In the everyday macroscopic world, we can accurately measure distance and mass because we have well known standards such as rulers or weights that we use to calibrate devices that measure distances or forces,” said Jason Vaughn Clark, professor of electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering. “But for the micro- or nanoscopic worlds, there have been no standards and no practical ways for measuring very small distances or forces.”

A new technology called electro micro metrology is enabling engineers to determine the precise movement and force that’s being applied to, or sensed by, an MEMS device, Clark said.

“For the first time, MEMS can now truly self-calibrate without any external references,” Clark said. ” And in doing so, they become very accurate sensors or actuators.”

MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes are already in use in commercial products including the Nintendo Wii video game, the iPhone and automotive airbags.

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Categorized | Engineering, Other
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