Bedfordshire, England: Researchers at Cranfield University have developed technology that could significantly reduce the manufacturing cost of complex micro-mechanical and micro-optical devices. The project, part of a €3.2 million research consortium called Q2M (Quality to Micro) supported by the European Union, addressed some of the key issues with existing micro-fabrication processes, which are limited by the conflicting requirements of different materials.
The technology can be used in the manufacture of myriad components and systems ranging in size from a few millimetres to a few hundred nanometres. Applications include emerging technologies for personal healthcare such as biomedical devices that can diagnose disease and electronically administer drugs, electronic noses to sniff out explosives or dangerous chemicals, and environmental control systems.
The technology could open up new applications in communications, as it offers the ability to incorporate previously incompatible non-silicon materials into radiofrequency (RF) circuits, enhancing performance and capability.
In collaboration with the IBM Research Centre in Zurich and the research establishment VTT in Finland, the researchers also demonstrated that a layer of piezoelectric material that’s 1 μm thick could be incorporated into RF micro-switches such as those found in mobile phone systems.