Micro-manufacturing breakthrough is wired for sound

Jun 25, 2014
Researcher Dr Amgad Rezk with the lithium niobate chip. Credit: RMIT University

In a breakthrough discovery, researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have harnessed the power of sound waves to enable precision micro- and nano-manufacturing.

The researchers have demonstrated how high-frequency sound waves can be used to precisely control the spread of thin film fluid along a specially-designed chip, in a paper published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

With thin film technology the bedrock of microchip and microstructure manufacturing, the pioneering research offers a significant advance – potential applications range from thin film coatings for paint and wound care to 3D printing, micro-casting and micro-fluidics. 

Professor James Friend, Director of the MicroNano Research Facility at RMIT, said the researchers had developed a portable system for precise, fast and unconventional micro- and nano-fabrication.

 "By tuning the sound waves, we can create any pattern we want on the surface of a microchip," Professor Friend said.

 "Manufacturing using thin film technology currently lacks precision ­– structures are physically spun around to disperse the liquid and coat components with thin film.

 "We've found that thin film liquid either flows towards or away from high-frequency sound waves, depending on its thickness.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Acoustowetting - micro-manufacturing with high-frequency sound waves

 "We not only discovered this phenomenon but have also unravelled the complex physics behind the process, enabling us to precisely control and direct the application of thin film liquid at a micro and nano-scale."

The new process, which the researchers have called "acoustowetting", works on a chip made of lithium niobate ­– a piezoelectric material capable of converting electrical energy into mechanical pressure.

The surface of the chip is covered with microelectrodes and the chip is connected to a power source, with the power converted to high-frequency sound waves. Thin film liquid is added to the surface of the , and the sound waves are then used to control its flow.

The research shows that when the liquid is ultra-thin ­– at nano and sub-micro depths – it flows away from the high-frequency sound waves.

The flow reverses at slightly thicker dimensions, moving towards the . But at a millimetre or more in depth, the flow reverses again, moving away.

Explore further: Researchers develop new printing method for mass production of thin film transistors

More information: Double Flow Reversal in Thin Liquid Films Driven by MHz Order Surface Vibration, Amgad R. Rezk, Ofer Manor; Leslie Y. Yeo, and James R. Friend, Proceedings of the Royal Society A, 25 June 2014. rspa.royalsocietypublishing.or… .1098/rspa.2013.0765

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Quantum effects in nanometer-scale metallic structures

Oct 22, 2014

Plasmonic devices combine the 'super speed' of optics with the 'super small' of microelectronics. These devices exhibit quantum effects and show promise as possible ultrafast circuit elements, but current ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

h20dr
not rated yet Jun 25, 2014
Hmmm... That didn't look too precise to me.
Doiea
Jun 25, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.