Design of an on-chip microscale nanoassembly system has been published by Jason Gorman of the Intelligent Systems Division at the US government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. They are currently fabricating a somewhat revised micro-scale nanoassembly system that we believe will be capable of manipulating nanoparticles by the end of the summer, 2008.
The NIST system consists of four Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) devices positioned around a centrally located port on a chip into which the starting materials can be placed Each nanomanipulator is composed of positioning mechanism with an attached nanoprobe. By simultaneously controlling the position of each of these nanoprobes, the team can use them to cooperatively assemble a complex structure on a very small scale. “If successful, this project will result in an on-chip nanomanufacturing system that would be the first of its kind,” says Gorman.
Our micro-scale nanoassembly system is designed for real-time imaging of the nanomanipulation procedures using a scanning electron microscope,” explains Gorman, “and multiple nanoprobes can be used to grasp nanostructures in a cooperative manner to enable complex assembly operations.” Importantly, once the team has optimized their design they anticipate that nanoassembly systems could be made for around $400 per chip at present costs.
This paper describes the algorithm development and experimental results of a multi-probe micro-assembly system. The experimental testbed consists of two actuated probes, an actuated die stage, and vision feedback. The kinematics relationships for the probes, die stage, and part manipulation are derived and used for calibration and kinematics-based planning and control. Particular attention has been focused on the effect of adhesion forces in probe-part and part-stage contacts in order to achieve grasp stability and robust part manipulation. By combining pre-planned manipulation sequences and vision based manipulation, repeatable spatial (in contrast to planar) manipulation and insertion of a sub-millimeter part has been demonstrated. The insertion process only requires the operator to identify two features to initialize the calibration, and the remaining tasks involving part pick-up, manipulation, and insertion are all performed autonomously.