Researchers from Purdue University have developed a “microtweezers” instrument for manipulating micrometer-sized objects. Details of the micromanipulator were published online in the December issue of Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems. The entirely mechanical instrument comprises three parts: a two-pronged tweezers made from silicon, an adjustable knob from a standard micrometer and a graphite interface, which couples the micrometer knob with the tweezers’ prongs. One advantage of the microtweezers is its simple compliant structure which the researchers suggest is easier to manufacture and operate relative to more complex thermal, magnetic or electrical microtweezers designs.
According to the researchers, their new tool should facilitate the assembly of Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) such as the gyroscopes and accelerometers which reside in many of the activity monitoring devices which often grace the pages of Medgadget. Other applications are also possible in the field of microparticle manipulation, coating, weighing and measurement.
“We currently are working to weigh single micro particles, individually selected among many others, which is important because precise measurements of an object’s mass reveal key traits, making it possible to identify composition and other characteristics,”
The microtweezers also could facilitate the precision printing of chemical or protein dots onto “microcantilevers,” strips of silicon that resemble tiny diving boards. The microcantilevers can be “functionalized,” or coated with certain chemicals or proteins that attract specific molecules and materials. Because they vibrate at different frequencies depending on what sticks to the surface, they are used to detect chemicals in the air and water.
The new microtweezers are designed to be attached easily to “translation stages” currently used in research. These stages are essentially platforms on which to mount specimens for viewing and manipulating. Unlike most other microtweezers, the new device is highly compact and portable and can be easily detached from a platform and brought to another lab while still holding a micro-size object for study.
Press release: New microtweezers may build tiny ‘MEMS’ structures
Abstract in Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems: A Compact Manually Actuated Micromanipulator