Small-scale Research with Large-scale Applications

April 3, 2008

Boston – April 3, 2008 – Interdisciplinary approaches are applied in most every area of scientific study, including the field of nanotechnology. Scientists in the field of nanotechnology work with matter ranging from the atomic level to micron scale. At these scales, however, matter behaves in a different manner than in our macro world. Hence, understanding its basic principles and behavior is a priority for the creation of new reliable technologies and devices.  Northeastern’s Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN), in collaboration with University of Massachusetts – Lowell and University of New Hampshire, is a world leader in the creation of processes such as nanotemplates that accelerate the manufacturing methods for a variety of commercial products. 

One of the key issues in this process is reliability, and Juan Aceros, a graduate student at Northeastern University’s College of Engineering, is building micro-devices called MicroElectricalMechanical systems (MEMS) that test the properties of nanoelements. MEMS integrate mechanical and electrical elements into one micro-system that tests the reliability of thin films, nanotubes, nanofibers or nanowires, which would not be testable using macro-sized systems.  

Aceros has looked at the mechanical and thermal behavior of nanoelements to identify the materials that will work best and ensure the reliability of nanodevices. The degradation of metallic thin films and nanowires under various environments and temperature cycles has yielded important information on the failure behavior and limitations that these materials could have on new devices. His future research includes using a MEMS resonator device to detect the level at which nanoelements become unreliable due to mechanical cycling and using MEMs uniaxial tensile testers to characterize the mechanical properties of new biocompatible polymers.

Originally from Colombia, Aceros has a Masters degree in mechanical engineering from Northeastern University and is currently working on his Ph.D. in electrical engineering, which he hopes to complete this summer. In addition to his research, Aceros teaches an undergraduate level course in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. This complements Aceros highly interdisciplinary academic background in hopes of pursuing a career in higher education.

Nanotechnology has the potential to have a significant effect on our world in the not-so-distant future.  Because there is such a demand to make things smaller – and more environmentally friendly – nanotechnology will continue to be an important field of study. At Northeastern, the CHN is working with industry partners to manufacture a memory chip and a biosensor that will detect antibody molecules early in the development of cancer.

“My research is aimed at bridging the gap between the macro and nano worlds to help develop the most efficient nanodevices possible,” said Aceros. “The focus on reliability is pivotal to the field of nanotechnology and will help bring the benefits of nanotechnology to the public.”

(Image Description: Scanning Electron Microcope (SEM) Image of Nanowire on Hotplate)

For more information about MEMS research at Northeastern, please contact Jenny Eriksen at (617) 373-2802 or via email at j.eriksen@neu.edu.

About the Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing

The Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing is focused on developing tools and processes that will enable high-rate/high-volume bottom-up, precise, parallel assembly of nanoelements (such as carbon nanotubes, nanoparticles, etc.) and polymer nanostructures. The center’s nanotemplates are utilized to conduct fast massive directed assembly of nanoscale elements by controlling the forces required to assemble, detach, and transfer nanoelements at high rates and over large areas. The developed nanotemplates and tools will accelerate the creation of highly anticipated commercial products and will enable the creation of an entirely new generation of applications.

About Northeastern University

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston.  Northeastern is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. The university’s distinctive cooperative education program, where students alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of paid work in fields relevant to their professional interests and major, is one of the largest and most innovative in the world. The University offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in six undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions. For more information, please visit www.northeastern.edu.

For more information, please contact Jenny Catherine Eriksen at 617-373-2802 or at j.eriksen@neu.edu.

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