Publications by authors named "Matthias Imboden"

15 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Analysis of a Casimir-driven parametric amplifier with resilience to Casimir pull-in for MEMS single-point magnetic gradiometry.

Microsyst Nanoeng 2021 7;7:73. Epub 2021 Sep 7.

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215 USA.

The Casimir force, a quantum mechanical effect, has been observed in several microelectromechanical system (MEMS) platforms. Due to its extreme sensitivity to the separation of two objects, the Casimir force has been proposed as an excellent avenue for quantum metrology. Practical application, however, is challenging due to attractive forces leading to stiction and device failure, called Casimir pull-in. In this work, we design and simulate a Casimir-driven metrology platform, where a time-delay-based parametric amplification technique is developed to achieve a steady-state and avoid pull-in. We apply the design to the detection of weak, low-frequency, gradient magnetic fields similar to those emanating from ionic currents in the heart and brain. Simulation parameters are selected from recent experimental platforms developed for Casimir metrology and magnetic gradiometry, both on MEMS platforms. While a MEMS offers many advantages to such an application, the detected signal must typically be at the resonant frequency of the device, with diminished sensitivity in the low frequency regime of biomagnetic fields. Using a Casimir-driven parametric amplifier, we report a 10,000-fold improvement in the best-case resolution of MEMS single-point gradiometers, with a maximum sensitivity of 6 Hz/(pT/cm) at 1 Hz. Further development of the proposed design has the potential to revolutionize metrology and may specifically enable the unshielded monitoring of biomagnetic fields in ambient conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41378-021-00289-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8433440PMC
September 2021

A system for probing Casimir energy corrections to the condensation energy.

Microsyst Nanoeng 2020 28;6:115. Epub 2020 Dec 28.

Department of ECE, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215 USA.

In this article, we present a nanoelectromechanical system (NEMS) designed to detect changes in the Casimir energy. The Casimir effect is a result of the appearance of quantum fluctuations in an electromagnetic vacuum. Previous experiments have used nano- or microscale parallel plate capacitors to detect the Casimir force by measuring the small attractive force these fluctuations exert between the two surfaces. In this new set of experiments, we aim to directly detect the shifts in the Casimir energy in a vacuum due to the presence of the metallic parallel plates, one of which is a superconductor. A change in the Casimir energy of this configuration is predicted to shift the superconducting transition temperature ( ) because of the interaction between it and the superconducting condensation energy. In our experiment, we take a superconducting film, carefully measure its transition temperature, bring a conducting plate close to the film, create a Casimir cavity, and then measure the transition temperature again. The expected shifts are smaller than the normal shifts one sees in cycling superconducting films to cryogenic temperatures, so using a NEMS resonator in situ is the only practical way to obtain accurate, reproducible data. Using a thin Pb film and opposing Au surface, we observe no shift in >12 µK down to a minimum spacing of ~70 nm at zero applied magnetic field.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41378-020-00221-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7767790PMC
December 2020

An autonomous untethered fast soft robotic insect driven by low-voltage dielectric elastomer actuators.

Sci Robot 2019 Dec;4(37)

Soft Transducers Laboratory (LMTS), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Rue de la Maladière 71B, Neuchâtel 2000, Switzerland.

Insects are a constant source of inspiration for roboticists. Their compliant bodies allow them to squeeze through small openings and be highly resilient to impacts. However, making subgram autonomous soft robots untethered and capable of responding intelligently to the environment is a long-standing challenge. One obstacle is the low power density of soft actuators, leading to small robots unable to carry their sense and control electronics and a power supply. Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEAs), a class of electrostatic electroactive polymers, allow for kilohertz operation with high power density but require typically several kilovolts to reach full strain. The mass of kilovolt supplies has limited DEA robot speed and performance. In this work, we report low-voltage stacked DEAs (LVSDEAs) with an operating voltage below 450 volts and used them to propel an insect-sized (40 millimeters long) soft untethered and autonomous legged robot. The DEAnsect body, with three LVSDEAs to drive its three legs, weighs 190 milligrams and can carry a 950-milligram payload (five times its body weight). The unloaded DEAnsect moves at 30 millimeters/second and is very robust by virtue of its compliance. The sub-500-volt operation voltage enabled us to develop 780-milligram drive electronics, including optical sensors, a microcontroller, and a battery, for two channels to output 450 volts with frequencies up to 1 kilohertz. By integrating this flexible printed circuit board with the DEAnsect, we developed a subgram robot capable of autonomous navigation, independently following printed paths. This work paves the way for new generations of resilient soft and fast untethered robots.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.aaz6451DOI Listing
December 2019

Building a Casimir metrology platform with a commercial MEMS sensor.

Microsyst Nanoeng 2019 22;5:14. Epub 2019 Apr 22.

1Division of Material Science and Engineering, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215 USA.

The Casimir Effect is a physical manifestation of quantum fluctuations of the electromagnetic vacuum. When two metal plates are placed close together, typically much less than a micron, the long wavelength modes between them are frozen out, giving rise to a net attractive force between the plates, scaling as (or for a spherical-planar geometry) even when they are not electrically charged. In this paper, we observe the Casimir Effect in ambient conditions using a modified capacitive micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) sensor. Using a feedback-assisted pick-and-place assembly process, we are able to attach various microstructures onto the post-release MEMS, converting it from an inertial force sensor to a direct force measurement platform with pN (piconewton) resolution. With this system we are able to directly measure the Casimir force between a silver-coated microsphere and gold-coated silicon plate. This device is a step towards leveraging the Casimir Effect for cheap, sensitive, room temperature quantum metrology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41378-019-0054-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6475642PMC
April 2019

High-speed mechano-active multielectrode array for investigating rapid stretch effects on cardiac tissue.

Nat Commun 2019 02 19;10(1):834. Epub 2019 Feb 19.

Department of Physiology, University of Bern, Bühlplatz 5, 3012, Bern, Switzerland.

Systematic investigations of the effects of mechano-electric coupling (MEC) on cellular cardiac electrophysiology lack experimental systems suitable to subject tissues to in-vivo like strain patterns while simultaneously reporting changes in electrical activation. Here, we describe a self-contained motor-less device (mechano-active multielectrode-array, MaMEA) that permits the assessment of impulse conduction along bioengineered strands of cardiac tissue in response to dynamic strain cycles. The device is based on polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) cell culture substrates patterned with dielectric actuators (DEAs) and compliant gold ion-implanted extracellular electrodes. The DEAs induce uniaxial stretch and compression in defined regions of the PDMS substrate at selectable amplitudes and with rates up to 18 s. Conduction along cardiomyocyte strands was found to depend linearly on static strain according to cable theory while, unexpectedly, being completely independent on strain rates. Parallel operation of multiple MaMEAs provides for systematic high-throughput investigations of MEC during spatially patterned mechanical perturbations mimicking in-vivo conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-08757-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6381132PMC
February 2019

An ultra-fast mechanically active cell culture substrate.

Sci Rep 2018 07 2;8(1):9895. Epub 2018 Jul 2.

Institute of Microengineering, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, CH-2002, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

We present a mechanically active cell culture substrate that produces complex strain patterns and generates extremely high strain rates. The transparent miniaturized cell stretcher is compatible with live cell microscopy and provides a very compact and portable alternative to other systems. A cell monolayer is cultured on a dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA) made of a 30 μm thick silicone membrane sandwiched between stretchable electrodes. A potential difference of several kV's is applied across the electrodes to generate electrostatic forces and induce mechanical deformation of the silicone membrane. The DEA cell stretcher we present here applies up to 38% tensile and 12% compressive strain, while allowing real-time live cell imaging. It reaches the set strain in well under 1 ms and generates strain rates as high as 870 s, or 87%/ms. With the unique capability to stretch and compress cells, our ultra-fast device can reproduce the rich mechanical environment experienced by cells in normal physiological conditions, as well as in extreme conditions such as blunt force trauma. This new tool will help solving lingering questions in the field of mechanobiology, including the strain-rate dependence of axonal injury and the role of mechanics in actin stress fiber kinetics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-27915-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6028580PMC
July 2018

Beam shaping with tip-tilt varifocal mirror for indoor optical wireless communication.

Opt Express 2017 Aug;25(17):20274-20285

MEMS mirrors are currently used in many applications to steer beams of light. An area of continued research is developing mirrors with varifocal capability that allows the beam to be shaped and focused. In this work, we study the varifocal capability of a 380 μm diameter, thermally actuated MEMS mirror with a ± 40° tip-tilt angle and a radius of curvature between -0.48 mm to 20.5 mm. Light is coupled to the mirror via a single mode optical fiber, similar to an indoor optical wireless communication architecture. The performance of the mirror is characterized with respect to (1) the profile of the reflected beam as the mirror deforms and (2) the mirror's impact when integrated into an optical communication system. We found that the mirror can focus light to a beam with a 0.18° half-angle divergence. Additionally, the ability to change the shape of fiberized light from a wide to narrow beam provides an unmatched level of dynamic control and significantly improves the bit error rate in an optical communication system.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/OE.25.020274DOI Listing
August 2017

Cryogenic Fab-on-a-Chip Sticks the Landing.

ACS Nano 2017 09 31;11(9):8707-8716. Epub 2017 Jul 31.

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne , Neuchâtel NE 2002, Switzerland.

Using a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-based Fab-on-a-Chip, we quench-condense lead thin-films. Suppressing the formation of lead islands makes it possible to grow a homogeneous and continuous film as thin as 2 nm, without the use of an adhesion layer. Thermal cycling from 3 K to as low as 10 K reveals irreversible annealing of the thin-film characteristic of a metastable state. The transition to the stable state is smooth and is completed by cycling the temperature above ∼42 K, where a distinctive resistance minimum is observed. This resistive minimum is accompanied by an unexpected peak in the superconducting transition temperature. After further thermal cycling, the standard metallic/superconductive behavior is established. The MEMS-based approach yields a platform for systematic studies of quench-condensed thin-film materials, making an intriguing parameter space of mesoscopic physics experimentally accessible.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.7b01808DOI Listing
September 2017

Tuning the resonance frequencies and mode shapes in a large range multi-degree of freedom micromirror.

Opt Express 2017 Apr;25(7):7895-7906

The ability to actively shift the primary resonance of a 2D scanning micromirror allows the user to set the scanning direction, set the scanning frequency, and lift otherwise degenerate modes in a symmetrically designed system. In most cases, resonant scanning micromirrors require frequency stability in order to perform imaging and projection functions properly. This paper suggests a method to tune the tip and tilt resonant frequencies in real time while actively suppressing or allowing degeneracy of the two modes in a symmetric electrothermal micromirror. We show resonant frequency tuning with a range of degeneracy separation of 470 Hz or by approximately ±15% and controllable coupling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/OE.25.007895DOI Listing
April 2017

Programmable solid state atom sources for nanofabrication.

Nanoscale 2015 Jun 1;7(24):10735-44. Epub 2015 Jun 1.

Department of Physics, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.

In this paper we discuss the development of a MEMS-based solid state atom source that can provide controllable atom deposition ranging over eight orders of magnitude, from ten atoms per square micron up to hundreds of atomic layers, on a target ∼1 mm away. Using a micron-scale silicon plate as a thermal evaporation source we demonstrate the deposition of indium, silver, gold, copper, iron, aluminum, lead and tin. Because of their small sizes and rapid thermal response times, pulse width modulation techniques are a powerful way to control the atomic flux. Pulsing the source with precise voltages and timing provides control in terms of when and how many atoms get deposited. By arranging many of these devices into an array, one has a multi-material, programmable solid state evaporation source. These micro atom sources are a complementary technology that can enhance the capability of a variety of nano-fabrication techniques.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c5nr01331cDOI Listing
June 2015

Electrothermally actuated tip-tilt-piston micromirror with integrated varifocal capability.

Opt Express 2015 Apr;23(7):9555-66

MEMS micromirrors have proven to be very important optical devices with applications ranging from steerable mirrors for switches and cross-connects to spatial light modulators for correcting optical distortions. Usually beam steering and focusing are done with different MEMS devices and tilt angles in excess of 10 degrees are seldom obtained. Here we describe a single MEMS device that combines tip/tilt, piston mode and varifocal capability into a single, low cost device with very large tilt angles. Our device consists of a 400 micron diameter mirror driven with thermal bimorphs. We have demonstrated deflection angles of ± 40 degrees along both axes, a tunable focal length which varies between -0.48 mm to + 20.5 mm and a piston mode range of 300 microns - four separately controllable degrees of freedom in a single device. Potential applications range from smart lighting to optical switches and devices for telecom systems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/OE.23.009555DOI Listing
April 2015

Building a Fab on a Chip.

Nanoscale 2014 May;6(10):5049-62

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.

Semiconductor fabs are large, complex industrial sites with costs for a single facility approaching $10B. In this paper we discuss the possibility of putting the entire functionality of such a fab onto a single silicon chip. We demonstrate a path forward where, for certain applications, especially at the nanometer scale, one can consider using a single chip approach for building devices with significant potential cost savings. In our approach, we build micro versions of the macro machines one typically finds in a fab, and integrating all the components together. We argue that the technology now exists to allow one to build a Fab on a Chip.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c3nr06087jDOI Listing
May 2014

Observation of nonlinear dissipation in piezoresistive diamond nanomechanical resonators by heterodyne down-mixing.

Nano Lett 2013 Sep 21;13(9):4014-9. Epub 2013 Aug 21.

Department of Physics, Boston University , 590 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, United States.

We report the observation of nonlinear dissipation in diamond nanomechanical resonators measured by an ultrasensitive heterodyne down-mixing piezoresistive detection technique. The combination of a hybrid structure as well as symmetry breaking clamps enables sensitive piezoresistive detection of multiple orthogonal modes in a diamond resonator over a wide frequency and temperature range. Using this detection method, we observe the transition from purely linear dissipation at room temperature to strongly nonlinear dissipation at cryogenic temperatures. At high drive powers and below liquid nitrogen temperatures, the resonant structure dynamics follows the Pol-Duffing equation of motion. Instead of using the broadening of the full width at half-maximum, we propose a nonlinear dissipation backbone curve as a method to characterize the strength of nonlinear dissipation in devices with a nonlinear spring constant.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/nl401978pDOI Listing
September 2013

Atomic calligraphy: the direct writing of nanoscale structures using a microelectromechanical system.

Nano Lett 2013 Jul 24;13(7):3379-84. Epub 2013 Jun 24.

Electrical and Computer Engineering and ‡Department of Physics, Boston University , Boston, Massachusetts 02215, United States.

We present a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) based method for the resist-free patterning of nanostructures. Using a focused ion beam to customize larger MEMS machines, we fabricate apertures with features less than 50 nm in diameter on plates that can be moved with nanometer precision over an area greater than 20 × 20 μm(2). Depositing thermally evaporated gold atoms though the apertures while moving the plate results in the deposition of nanoscale metal patterns. Adding a shutter positioned micrometers above the aperture enables high speed control of not only where but also when atoms are deposited. With this shutter, different-sized apertures can be opened and closed selectively for nanostructure fabrication with features ranging from nano- to micrometers in scale. The ability to evaporate materials with high precision, and thereby fabricate circuits and structures in situ, enables new kinds of experiments based on the interactions of a small number of atoms and eventually even single atoms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/nl401699wDOI Listing
July 2013

Synchronized oscillation in coupled nanomechanical oscillators.

Science 2007 Apr;316(5821):95-9

Department of Physics, Boston University, 590 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA.

We report measurements of synchronization in two nanomechanical beam oscillators coupled by a mechanical element. We charted multiple regions of frequency entrainment or synchronization by their corresponding Arnold's tongue diagrams as the oscillator was driven at subharmonic and rational commensurate frequencies. Demonstration of multiple synchronized regions could be fundamentally important to neurocomputing with mechanical oscillator networks and nanomechanical signal processing for microwave communication.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1137307DOI Listing
April 2007
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