science tech materials mems machines diamond electronics sensors actuators
Diamond Film Opens New Possibilities For Miniscule Machines

by Txchnologist staff

Diamond may be a microelectromechanical system’s best friend.

Tiny MEMs, which can measure just microns across, are showing up as parts of sensors, switches and actuators in products from inkjet printers to car airbags and mobile devices. The miniature machines are shaping up to be a major component in the coming connected world.

The problem is that most MEMs out there right now are made of silicon, a brittle material that quickly wears down when it is being used as a moving part. 

We’ve already featured researchers who are looking to get past that major limitation, including one team that is making experimental MEMs out of nickel alloy. Now scientists at several institutions including Argonne National Lab say they may have another option.

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Nanotech To Fight Counterfeiters

Researchers have made a new type of watermark that remains invisible until a person’s breath reveals it. Engineers envision the technology being used as labels to fight the sale of counterfeit goods. 

"One challenge in fighting counterfeiting is the need to stay ahead of the counterfeiters," said Nicholas Kotov, a University of Michigan chemical engineering professor who led the team that created the labels, in a statement. ”You can verify that you have the real product with just a breath of air.”

Learn more and see a video on the innovation below.

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Surface Changes As Microhairs Move In Magnetic Fields

MIT engineers have developed a coating with tiny metallic microscopic hairs that move when subjected to switching magnetic fields. The movement lets researchers control the direction and speed that fluid moves over the surface or optical characteristics of light passing through.

The hairs are made of nickel and stick out of a stretchy silicone skin beneath. Each hair is a pillar about one-fourth the diameter of a human hair, they say.

“We can apply the field in any direction, and the pillars will follow the field, in real time,” said mechanical engineering graduate student Yangying Zhu.

Click the gifs above or read more and see a video below.

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This Isn’t Your Grandparents’ Machine Lubricant

by Michael Keller

Gears, actuators and whirring machine parts are all around us. The modern automobile alone can have upwards of 50 electric motors—from electric windshield wipers to alternators—whose guts include pieces of metal rubbing against other parts.

The only thing that keeps these components from grinding away into powder is a liquid lubricant, a substance typically made of a petroleum-derived base oil mixed with additives that reduce friction between moving parts. 

Now researchers in Germany say they have made a breakthrough in developing the next generation of lubricants. Their new liquid formulation, they say, lets small gears run with virtually no friction. The source of this wear-reducing elixir? The liquid crystals inside your computer and TV screen.

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