Searing heat, little package; High-temperature lab-on-a-chip can get hotter than surface of Venus

Jul 01, 2004
Searing heat, little package; High-temperature lab-on-a-chip can get hotter than surface of Venus

Engineers have created a miniature hotplate that can reach temperatures above 1100°C (2012°F), self-contained within a "laboratory" no bigger than a child's shoe.

The micro-hotplates are only a few dozen microns across (roughly the width of a human hair), yet are capable of serving as substrates, heaters and conductors for thin-film experiments ranging from material analyses to the development of advanced sensors.

Researchers at Boston MicroSystems, Inc. craft the hotplates out of silicon carbide, a robust material that can tolerate extreme heat and reach peak temperature in less than one-thousandth of a second.

Silicon carbide is not only stable at high temperatures, it is also impervious to chemical attack from most materials. As a result, the hotplates can be cleaned by merely burning debris off the surface.

Contained on a microchip, the tiny "labs" reside within a polycarbonate chamber that can endure near-vacuum pressures. Ports on the chamber's sides allow gases to pass through and feed experiments, and because of the chamber's transparency, researchers can observe experiments with a microscope as they progress.

The hotplates also contain an integrated temperature gauge and a pair of electrodes. These components allow researchers to test the electrical properties of various materials that may be deposited onto the hotplates.

Using the stable, thin-film deposition properties and integrated circuitry of the hotplates, researchers are already developing applications such as oxygen and engine emission sensors. The sensor may have several advantages over devices in today's combustion engines, due to the micro-hotplate's chemical stability, small size, rapid response and low power consumption.

The techniques necessary for crafting and optimizing these micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) were developed with support from the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and SBIR programs at the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA.

Comments from the researchers:
"High-temperature silicon carbide micro-hotplates are new to the research community and may prove to be flexible tools for optics, chemical vapor deposition chambers, micro-reactors and other applications." – Rick Mlcak, Boston MicroSystems

"The micro-hotplate arrays are versatile research tools--the same basic system can adapt to handle such diverse experiments as analyses of heat treatments and the characterization of new thin film materials." – Rick Mlcak, Boston MicroSystems

Comments from NSF:
"The proposed oxygen sensor may find applications in the characterization of automobile emissions and the control of oxidation and reduction reactions in ceramics and metallurgical processing." – Winslow Sargeant, the NSF SBIR program officer who oversees the Boston Microsystems award. "The exceptionally small size and low power consumption of the micro-hotplate oxygen sensors make them particularly suited for portable instrumentation, monitoring of hazardous environments, sensing of respiration and biological processes, control of oxygen-sensitive industrial processes, and the packaging and monitoring of food." – Winslow Sargeant

Source: The National Science Foundation (NSF)

Explore further: Cool calculations for cold atoms: New theory of universal three-body encounters

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists get set for simulated nuclear inspection

14 hours ago

Some 40 scientists and technicians from around the world will descend on Jordan in November to take part in a simulated on-site inspection of a suspected nuclear test site on the banks of the Dead Sea.

Alibaba IPO comes with unusual structure

14 hours ago

Foreigners who want to buy Alibaba Group shares in the Chinese e-commerce giant's U.S. public offering will need to get comfortable with an unusual business structure.

Recommended for you

New method for non-invasive prostate cancer screening

16 hours ago

Cancer screening is a critical approach for preventing cancer deaths because cases caught early are often more treatable. But while there are already existing ways to screen for different types of cancer, ...

How bubble studies benefit science and engineering

17 hours ago

The image above shows a perfect bubble imploding in weightlessness. This bubble, and many like it, are produced by the researchers from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. What ...

Famous Feynman lectures put online with free access

18 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Back in the early sixties, physicist Richard Feynman gave a series of lectures on physics to first year students at Caltech—those lectures were subsequently put into print and made into text ...

Single laser stops molecular tumbling motion instantly

22 hours ago

In the quantum world, making the simple atom behave is one thing, but making the more complex molecule behave is another story. Now Northwestern University scientists have figured out an elegant way to stop a molecule from ...

User comments : 0