Exploiting emergent collective behaviours in complex large MEMS systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Electronic, Electrical and Computer Eng


Using micro/nanotechnology it is possible to create systems containing millions of interacting, non-linear and potentially variable components in areas of less than one square centimetre. Furthermore, since these systems are 'sensors' they must be designed to predictably respond to an input despite the fact that each component is so small and sensitive that it can be significantly perturbed by unavoidable random fluctuations in its local environment. These characteristics suggest that some of the most complex systems we currently need to understand, model and control are these physically very small, super-massive arrays of miniature electronic and mechanical devices. Conventionally the design of a system containing miniature devices is dramatically simplified by isolating the components of the system. However, this simplification is bought at the expense of suppressing potential beneficial system properties and behaviours. It is both essential and timely to break away from the constraints arising from this conventional design process. Researchers from the Universities of Aston, Birmingham and Oxford therefore propose to work together to develop a very novel approach to system design that exploits rather than minimises the complexity of supermassive arrays of miniature devices. This new design strategy will be developed by combining expertise in mathematics, physics, mechanics and microelectronics to investigate collective and non-linear effects in arrays of micromechanical sensors. The information that these investigations generate will then be included in new models of this type of sensor that will then be used to predict and exploit system level properties of arrays of these sensors. The result will lead to revolutionary new types of systems.


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Description This project was challenging as it required not just the fabrication of a single micro-mechanical resonantor but rather an array of resonators. Due to the fidelity of the manufacturing processes we wre unable to fabricate any large arrays, which was the origional intention of the project. So we were not able to demonstrate the large array coolective behaviours that we were expecting.
However we were able to fabricate small arrays of resonators and through mathematically analysis, published in "Characterisation of coupled micro resonators using inverse eigenvalue analysis", Applied Physics Letters, Vol. 97, pp 133114 (2010) with C. Anthony, M. Ward, R. Turnbull and S. Collins show that coupled mechnical resonators have the potential to be utilised in gas detection system.
Exploitation Route This work is continuing with Prof S Collins at Oxford University and I see that they are still publishing in this area.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Electronics,Healthcare

Description Dr Carl Anthony was a Post doc on this project an has moved on to a permanaent academic appointment at Birmingham University.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education
Impact Types Cultural,Societal