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Programmable and Spatially Multi-scale Self-assembly of Microcomponents

Research area: Micro- and Nanorobotics

Micro- and nanoassembly is a key technology for the integration of complex microsystems that are built from components manufactured using dissimilar processes and in different scale. Assembly of microcomponents has been developed in two branches, robotic approach and self-assembly.

Current state-of-the-art self-assembly technologies for microcomponents can assemble parts ranging from few micrometers to millimeters in a massively parallel manner. However, the reported assembly technologies are not very well applicable to many real-world problems: 1) the densities of the receptor sites are often optimized for the demonstration; 2) the assembled microdevices are not very complex, while the general trend in micro- and nanosystems is towards more complex and heterogenous systems; 3) the flexibility and reconfigurability of the assembly process is very low, which makes it less competitive to robotic solutions.

The main objective of the research is to study the methodology that can achieve high-performance self-assembly of microcomponents for complicated and/or spatially multi-scale microsystems. This will be achieved through: 1) Controlled agitation. Techniques to have more controlled delivery of parts to receptor sites; 2) Self-assembly in small work volume. Bringing the size of work volume (or bath for fluidic phase self-assembly) closer to the size of the receptor sites. 3) Programmable assembly. Activating different receptor sites on demand, using controllable surface properties, to achieve “digital self-assembly”. Setting up a chain of small work volume self-assembly processes to achieve “self-assembly line”.

The hypothesis is that by controlling the agitation or actively guiding specific micro parts to the receptor sites, the yield of complex and/or multi-scale self-assembly can be significantly improved. Moreover, automation will make the predictability and flexibility of the process much better.

The results of the proposed research will be an important enabling technology for the manufacturing of future micro- and nanosystems. The research will potentially bring the reconfigurability of self-assembly close to that of robotics based assembly line and enables constructing dramatically more complicated systems using self-assembly. This has a potential to revolutionize micro- and nanosystems research, by providing tools to rapidly prototype and assemble heterogenous microsystems.

Duration: 2010-2013

Funding: Finnish Academy