January 18, 2012

"Actuation at a distance" of microelectromechanical systems using photoelectrowetting: proof-of-concept

Arxiv - Researchers demonstrate a proof-of-concept experiment that microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) can be actuated using photoelectrowetting. In order to demonstrate this, a 30 micron thick aluminum cantilever is actuated using an ordinary white light source. A deflection of 56 microns is observed using a light irradiance equal to approx 1000 W m-2 at a bias of 7 V. Such "actuation at a distance" could be useful for optical addressing and control of autonomous wireless sensors, MEMS and microsystems.

Technology Review- The goal is to create devices, such as a lab-on-a-chip, that can carry out self-contained chemical and biological tests on tiny samples. To that end, researchers have developed various new ways to move liquid around using exotic pumps relying on things like electric fields. So-called microfluidic devices are having a big impact in areas from pathogen identification to environmental monitoring.

The ability to actuate at a distance using light alone could have many applications because it eliminates the need for the complex circuitry and pumps now used to transport droplets. It could also allow optical addressing of autonomous, wireless sensors.

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