The purpose of my research is to generate the knowledge required to create and integrate machine elements (flexures, mechanisms and actuators) to form small-scale, multi-axis nanopositioning systems (MNS). Nanopositioners are electromechanical systems wherein actuators, bearings and mechanisms are integrated in a way that enables them to position and orient components with nm-level accuracy. MNS are important as they set the limits on our ability to measure and control geometric relationships. They are relevant to (a) instruments that enable the measurement/understanding of small-scale geometries/phenomena and (b) equipment that enables the fabrication of parts that rely on small-scale geometries/phenomena. Advances in MNS technology makes it possible to increase the type/pace of scientific discoveries (via instruments) and improves the pace/quality with which these discoveries are put into practice (via equipment).
My research is focused upon the creation of MNS for nanomanufacturing equipment, instruments for nano-scale research and prototyping equipment for nano-scale research. Many emerging applications within these areas will require small-scale MNS - i.e. MNS that are nano-, micro-, or meso-scale in size - to achieve viable speed (kHz), resolution (nanometers), cost ($10s/device) and stability (Å/min) levels. These levels cannot be obtained with macro-scale MNS and it is impractical to obtain these levels by miniaturizing conventional macro-scale machine elements. New machine element concepts, synthesis methods and design tools are required to realize small-scale MNS. My research aims to create and grow a body of knowledge that supports the design and fabrication of small-scale MNS. Six-axis systems present the most challenging problems and therefore they serve as platforms for validating my research. Although this work is inspired by specific applications, the results are applicable to a wide array of small-scale MNS problems.