Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


World’s smallest universal material testing system


The design, development and manufacturing of revolutionary products such as the automobile, airplane and computer owe a great deal of their success to the large-scale material testing systems (MTS) that have provided engineers and designers with a fundamental understanding of the mechanical behavior of various materials and structures.

In the world of nanotechnology, however, where the mechanical characterization of materials and structures takes place on the scale of atoms and molecules, the existing material testing systems are useless. The development of a universal nanoscale material testing system (n-MTS), which could fit in existing electron microscopes (instruments that can magnify images approximately one million times) and possess the resolution and accuracy needed to mechanically test nanoscale objects, has been a major challenge within the scientific community.

Now researchers at Northwestern University have designed and built the first complete micromachine that makes possible the investigation of nanomechanics phenomena in real time. The findings are published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The machine, which can fit in tiny spaces as required by in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM), successfully characterized the mechanical properties of nanowires and carbon nanotubes.

The n-MTS developed by Horacio D. Espinosa, professor of mechanical engineering, and his colleagues consists of an actuator and a load sensor fabricated by means of micro technology (a derivative of the computer industry). The load sensor is based on differential capacitive sensing, which provides a load resolution of about 10 nano Newtons. This is the first nanoscale material testing system that provides continuous observation of specimen deformation and failure with sub-nanometer resolution while simultaneously measuring electronically the applied forces with nano-Newton resolution. The integration of electro-mechanical and thermo-mechanical components at the micro scale made the achievement possible.

One of the challenges overcome by the University researchers was the integration of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and circuits for measurement of electronic signals. They solved this problem by using a double-chip architecture consisting of a MEMS chip and a microelectronic sensing chip.

Another challenge overcome by the team was the mounting of individual nanostructures on the testing device. Using a nanomanipulator inside a dual-beam scanning electron microscope and focused ion beam apparatus (a new tool available to nanoscientists) the researchers picked up nanostructures, cut them to the desired length and nanowelded the structures onto the n-MTS using electron-beam-induced deposition of platinum.

As reported in the PNAS paper, the system capabilities were demonstrated by in situ electron microscopy testing of free-standing polysilicon films, metallic nanowires and carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Espinosa’s team achieved the first real-time instrumented in situ transmission electron microscopy observation of CNTs failure under tensile loading.

In 1959, Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman delivered a talk at the California Institute of Technology entitled "There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom" in which he envisioned the possibility of making very small machines. "Our MEMS-based nanoscale material testing system represents another milestone along the path of miniaturization anticipated by Feynman," said Espinosa. "We expect it will have a similar impact and produce the same level of opportunities as the development of the universal testing machine had in the last century."

The n-MTS can be potentially applied to characterize the mechanical, thermal and electro-mechanical properties not only of nanowires and nanotubes but also of a large number of organic materials, including DNA, proteins and nanofibers.

Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht From ancient fossils to future cars
21.10.2016 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht Study explains strength gap between graphene, carbon fiber
20.10.2016 | Rice University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>