Manufacturing Bits: July 26

Jumping films; depositing multifunctional materials; EU funds more R&D.


Jumping films
Riken and the University of Tokyo have developed a tiny autonomous actuator.

The actuator, which is based on a special material, can automatically curl up or straighten out when exposed to ambient humidity. And in certain conditions, the film can even jump into the air by itself. A video can be seen here.

Researchers placed a material called guanidinium carbonate into a high-temperature oven. This, in turn, resulted in a film based on a carbon nitrite polymer. It also consisted of stacked polymers of heptazine.

Then, they removed the material from the substrate. Under ambient conditions, the material would automatically bend and straighten out.

Researchers discovered that undetectable changes in ambient humidity caused the material to move. The actuation took place at speeds around 50 milliseconds for one curl. It could be repeated over 10,000 times without deterioration.

Then, when heated or irradiated by light, the film loses water and bends quickly. Then, it can jump vertically up to 10 mm from a surface or hit a glass bead, according to researchers from Riken and University of Tokyo.

Motions of the film caused by changes (Source: Riken)

Motions of the film caused by changes (Source: Riken)

“In the same way that a mechanical watch takes advantage of the natural movements of the wrist to gain energy, this film takes tiny fluctuations in the ambient humidity and transforms them into mechanical energy. This type of device will be useful for creating a sustainable society,” said Takuzo Aida, leader of the Emergent Soft Matter Function Research Group at Center for Emergent Matter Science (CEMS) and a professor at the University of Tokyo, on Riken’s site.

Depositing multifunctional materials
The next wave of scaled chips will require new and innovative materials.

Depositing multifunctional materials on substrates is challenging. The lattice mismatches from these materials on the surface could range from 1% to 25%, according to researchers from North Carolina State University.

Epitaxial systems are often used to deposit materials. Lattice matching epitaxy is one approach, but this technology has some issues. Using this approach, the heterostructures are sometimes not fully relaxed and can contain defects, according to North Carolina State University.

North Carolina State University and the U.S. Army Research Office have provided an update on an alternative technique called domain matching epitaxy. Researchers proposed the idea several years ago. Domain matching epitaxy involves growing single crystal films on surfaces “over a much wider range of lattice misfit conditions,” according to researchers.

Domain matching epitaxy is based on pulsed laser deposition techniques. With this, researchers have demonstrated the ability to grow multiferroic materials, topological insulators and other technologies. Multiferroic materials have both ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. Topological insulators act as insulators, but have conductive properties on their surfaces.

Specifically, researchers integrated the materials onto two platforms. One platform involves a titanium nitride platform for nitride-based electronics. Another involves yttria-stabilized zirconia for oxide-based electronics.

For multiferroic materials, researchers could use a combination of four different films–titanium nitride, magnesium oxide, strontium oxide and lanthanum strontium manganese oxide, according to researchers. Meanwhile, for topological insulators, researchers could use a combination of two thin films–magnesium oxide and titanium nitride.

These materials hold promise for sensors, memory and MEMS. “These novel oxides are normally grown on materials that are not compatible with computing devices,” says Jay Narayan, the John C. Fan Distinguished Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State, on the university’s Web site. “We are now able to integrate these materials onto a silicon chip, allowing us to incorporate their functions into electronic devices.”

EU funds more R&D
The European Commission (EC) has announced a new round of funding for its Horizon 2020 program.

The new funding amounts to €8.5 billion, which will be used for R&D purposes in 2017. This funding will be directed towards Horizon 2020, the EU’s biggest research and innovation framework program. It has a budget worth €77 billion over seven years (2014-2020).

The new funding will support a range of initiatives. This includes the following programs–The Circular Economy (€325 million) to develop sustainable economies; Smart and Sustainable Cities (€115 million) to integrate environmental, transport, energy and digital networks in EU’s urban environments; Technologies and standards for automatic driving (over €50 million); and the Internet of Things (€37 million).