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Advanced microsystems

In advanced microsystems, research topics include the development of new low-cost polymer-based biocompatible and biodegradable strain sensors, magnetic polymer microsystems for biomedical applications, the development of micro thermoelectric generators to provide power to autonomous micro systems without the use of batteries, and the development of micromechanical electrostatic bearings for use in MEMS gyroscopes.

Magnetic Polymer Microsystems

Inspired by the locomotion of the E. coli bacteria, the “Artificial Bacterial Flagella” (ABF) has been introduced as the first swimming micro robot similar in size and geometry to their natural counterpart. The ABF consists of a soft magnetic head and helical tail. While rotating magnetic fields are used to rotate the robot about its axis, the helical tail translates this rotation into locomotion. Although feature size as well as the motion control mechanisms make this device interesting for biomedical applications, its costly fabrication from toxic materials hampers further employment.

In a collaborative research project with the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems, we are investigating composite materials as the combination of inorganic particles and polymer matrices can provide desirable material properties in terms of magnetic properties, cytotoxicity as well as compatibility to cleanroom fabrication strategies.

For further details please refer to the research database of the ETH, or contact Christian Peters

Previous projects on this topic:

Towards total magnetic polymer Microsystems for life science applications

  Selected and Latest Publications on this topic:

[1] L. Zhang, J. J. Abbott, L. X. Dong, B. E. Kratochvil, D. J. Bell, B. J. Nelson, “Artificial Bacterial Flagella: Fabrication and Magnetic Control,” Applied Physics Letters, Vol. 94, No. 6, February 2009

[2] M. Suter, O. Ergeneman, J. Zürcher, C. Moitzi, S. Pané, T. Rudin, S.E. Pratsinis, B.J. Nelson, C. Hierold ”A photopatternable superparamagnetic nanocomposite: Material characterization and fabrication of microstructures,” Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, 2011. 156(1): p. 433-443

[3] C. Peters, O. Ergeneman, B.J. Nelson, C. Hierold “Superparamagnetic Swimming Microrobots with Adjusted Magnetic Anisotropy,“ 2013 IEEE 26th International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) (in press)

Polymer-based RF MEMS

Integrated mechanical systems with large, controllable deformations can be used for the processing of electromagnetic waves in the extremely high frequency (EHF) range. This work focuses on using polymer-based MEMS to implement vertical comb-drive actuators with polymeric torsional springs for large out-of-plane deflections. Silicon based high-aspect-ratio vertical comb drives and soft polymeric suspensions allow the developed devices to achieve large out-of-plane movements, such as tilting and piston motion. 

The actuators are mounted into metallic waveguides as tunable radiofrequency components, such as variable phase shifters and power dividers. Combined with wafer-level packaging, these devices have applications in areas such as automotive radar.

For further details please refer to the research database of the ETH, or contact Yunjia Li

  Selected and Latest Publications on this topic:

[1] Y. Li, S. Kuhne, D. Psychogiou, J. Hesselbarth, and C. Hierold, "A microdevice with large deflection for variable-ratio RF MEMS power divider applications," Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, vol. 21, pp. 074013, 2011.

Thermoelectric Energy Harvesting

A vast quantity of heat energy is wasted in our everyday life, for instance while driving a car (exhaust gas) or using a computer. This waste energy can be captured and converted into electrical power by means of the thermoelectric effect. A temperature gradient applied across a micro thermoelectric generator (µTEG) can be used to induce an electric current current using the thermoelectric effect. In order to maximize this temperature gradient and thus the generator’s output power, good thermal interfaces and active heat dissipation are necessary.

The work focuses on thermocoupling between thermoelectric generators and heat-carrying fluids through the use of microfluidic channels. Applications of this include collection of waste heat from exhaust gases and effluent.

Previous work in this area from our group has been spunoff into a company: GreenTeg GmbH

For further details please refer to the research database of the ETH, or contact Nina Wojtas

Previous projects on this topic:

Micro Thermoelectric Generator

  Selected and Latest Publications on this topic:

[1] N. Wojtas, E. Schwyter, W. Glatz, S. Kühne, W. Escher, C. Hierold, Power enhancement of micro thermoelectric generators by microfluidic heat transfer packaging, Sensors and Actuators A: Physical, Volume 188, December 2012, Pages 389-395

Previous projects:


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© 2014 ETH Zurich | Imprint | Disclaimer | 25 February 2013