The Laboratory for MicroTechnologies has state-of-the art facilities for realizing next-generation micro-scale to meso-scale polymer robots. We are developing new actuation technologies, based on soft materials that utilize electrochemical, electroosmotic, and electrostatic phenomena. The lab has the following capabilities.
- Fabrication: We use a “bench-top MEMS” fabrication approach in conjunction with conventional surface and bulk micromachining, enabling fabrication from m to cm length scales. Equipment includes UV lamps for photo-patterning of polymers, a spinner for thin film deposition, a mechanical surface profilometer (Dektak) to measure film thickness, bath and horn sonicators for composite mixing, a centrifuge, and various light microscopes.
- Test equipment: The lab has several high voltage power supplies (up to 10 kV) that feature manual or programmable controls. It has high-resolution force-strain transducers (up 0.5 and 1 N) for stress-strain characterization of small samples of soft material, and for isotonic or isometric polymer actuator characterization. For electrochemistry and frequency response analysis we have multi-channel EcoChemie and Arbin potentiostats. Equipment also includes various signal generators and multi-meters. This equipment allows for robust testing and characterization of electrical-to-mechanical (or vice-versa) transducers.
- Materials research: Pertinent equipment includes fume hoods, balances, microwave, glassware, sink, ultrasound, and other standard lab equipment. There is also a UV-vis-NIR instrument (Cary).
Technologies developed in the lab have been utilized to create conjugated polymer actuators, dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs), and electroosmotic (nastic) actuators for bio-inspired locomotion. We have also developed means of spray-depositing polymers and composite materials.