UWP MEMS and Nanotechnology program gets new MEMS profiler and portable electron microscope

April 20, 2009

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PLATTEVILLE- The University of Wisconsin-Platteville has acquired a new micro-electro-mechanical systems profiler and TM-1000 Hitachi portable electron microscope. The equipment will be integrated into classes to give students hands-on experience with the latest advancements in MEMS and nano devices.

UWP currently offers a minor in MEMS and nanotechnology and is planning for a major. According to Osama Jadaan, department chair of general engineering and MEMS professor, UWP is one of the only universities in the nation to incorporate MEMS and nanotechnology in one minor.

"Because we focus on hands-on engineering, we need to populate our labs with cutting edge technology. Engineering is a rapidly changing field. If we are not bringing the latest technology to our students, we're not doing our job. It's all about the students," said Jadaan. "The UWP engineering program has over a 90 percent job placement rate because of the quality, ethics and hands-on skills our undergraduates have."

MEMS and nano devices are currently used in air bag deployment systems, projection screens and inkjets for printers. The devices are approximately the size of a fingernail, but consist of a series of gears, digital mirrors and other mechanisms as small as a 1,000th of a millimeter. Using the MEMS profiler, students can see these tiny mechanical parts in action. It uses small electric probes to send a voltage through the device, making the parts move. A camera attached to a microscope and hooked to a computer allows students to see each part of the device in motion. Jadaan said the profiler will be central to the new MEMS and nano clean room and laboratory in Engineering Hall.

Jadaan's class, Design and Simulation of MEMS, teaches students how to design and manufacture MEMS devices. The profiler will also enable students to see the relation between the voltage and movement, assess the reliability and see how the device can fail. Jadaan also plans to use the profiler for undergraduate research.

"We're very thankful to the chancellor and dean for their support in bringing some serious cutting edge technology to our students," said Jadaan.

The portable electron microscope enables students to see individual parts at the nano scale. The device can zoom in up to 10,000 times magnification. A normal microscope can only zoom in 200 times. One of the features of the portable electron microscope is that samples need not be conductive, so there is virtually no preparation required to see a sample. In order to see samples with most other electron microscopes, they must be coated with gold or silver. Like the MEMS profiler, the electron microscope can also take digital pictures of the sample with one click of the mouse. Students can then incorporate the images in reports and projects.

One of the advantages to this particular electron microscope is that it is easy to operate, only requiring a few clicks and moving two knobs. It is also interdisciplinary. The biology department has already taken advantage of the portability of the device to look at insects. Additionally, several samples and some software have been provided free of charge by Sandia National Laboratory of the United States Department of Energy. UWP is part of Sandia's University Alliance.

The electron microscope will be incorporated into classes, enabling students to see what they talk about in class. Students can see and measure the individual layers and parts of MEMS and nano devices, something they wouldn't be able to do with an ordinary microscope. The device also allows students to classify materials and analyze defects. Using an electron microscope is a more efficient way of solving problems in product quality because the viewer can pinpoint exactly what went wrong in which step in the production process.

Hal Evensen, professor of engineering physics, said that acquiring the portable electron microscope was just the beginning of the growth of the MEMS and nanotechnology program. He has goals of acquiring more advanced equipment so UWP can continue to give students experience with the latest technology.

Anyone wanting more information about nanotechnology at UWP may contact Evensen at (608) 342-1531 or evensenh@uwplatt.edu. Anyone wanting more information about MEMS at UWP may contact Jadaan at (608) 342-1728 or jadaan@uwplatt.edu.

Contact: Osama Jadaan, chair, UWP Department of General Engineering, (608) 342-1728, jadaan@uwplatt.edu; Hal Evensen, professor, engineering physics, (608) 342-1531, evensenh@uwplatt.edu Written by: Krystle Kurdi, UWP Public Relations, (608) 342-1194, kurdik@uwplatt.edu

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