The University of Southampton

A MEMS Based Electrostatic Levitation and Control System for Target Delivery Applications

Schematic view of the electrostatic levitation system.
MEMs and NEMs

The aim of this project is to levitate and manipulate micromachined objects of various sizes and shapes using electrostatic fields. The project is part of a multidisciplinary EPSRC project that aims to develop new laser ion sources. Recent experiments have demonstrated that high-power laser irradiation of micro-targets generates intense, high-energy beams of protons, ions, neutrons, electrons, gamma, and x-rays. This process requires micro-targets to be suspended without physical means of attachment, because such supports are known to perturb the ion-beam production mechanism and generate unnecessary debris. To achieve the vision of a target delivery system using micromachining technology, micromachined objects (material silicon) are levitated by electrodes against the force of gravity. This is achieved by rapidly applying pulses of voltages of constant amplitude to the levitation electrodes, depending on whether the disk has been displaced in positive or negative z-direction. A voltage of 10V is sufficient for a disk with diameter between 30-100 um. The same electrodes can capacitively measure in which direction the disk has been displaced, and then energise electrode so that a counterbalancing force is actuated on the disk. Other application areas of such a system are micromachined gyroscopes and accelerometers with levitated proof mass, RF systems, and electrostatic switches and actuators.

Primary investigators

Associated research groups

  • Nano Research Group
  • Southampton Nanofabrication Centre
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